Croatian Victim and Witness Support Service (VWSS) has been working on improving the rights of crime victims and witnesses for 9 years. VWSS offers psychosocial support, legal information and guidance to those who have fallen victim to crime. Also, VWSS actively influences the legal system and sensitizes the society about the challenges and problems victims are facing. Currently, VWSS has two active programs: the National Call Center for Victims of Crimes and the Reference Center for Direct Support.
The National Call Center for Victims of Crimes has a universal toll-free number 116 006 where volunteers offer legal information, emotional support and refer callers to relevant organizations in both Croatian and English.
The Reference Center for Direct Support offers comprehensive support before, during and after judicial proceedings. Via the Reference Center, VWSS extends its scope to providing free legal aid to victims living in certain areas of Croatia.
Also, VWSS carries out actions focused on strengthening the capacity of NGOs in terms of providing support. Its main goal is the expansion of organizations which provide psychosocial support to victims and witnesses.
More information about the Victim and Witness Support Service can be found on: www.pzs.hr
Support for victims and witnesses in Republic of Croatia is organised within the justice system on two levels:
1. Ministry of Justice, Service for Victim and Witness Support
2. Victim and Witness Support Offices at courts
I. Independent Service for Victim and Witness Support at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is central body for coordination of development of victim and witness support system. Its responsibilities are:
– Coordination of the victim and witness support system in general
– International and national cooperation (with the police, social service, probation service – Sector for Probation MoJ, Prison System Directorate – MoJ, NGOs)
– Coordination of Victim and Witness Support Offices at the courts. Organization and provision of education/training; supervision for employees and volunteers of Support Offices at courts
– Provision of information and support to victims and witnesses that are summoned over the mutual international legal assistance (information about the rights in written form, information and psychological support provided over the phone; referral to other relevant services; for victims and witnesses in war crime cases provision of: logistical support, transportation, police escort and protection, hotel accommodation as well as all the necessary information and support)
– Provision of information to victims about the release of the offender from prison and additional help in coordination with other relevant services
– Contacting victims on the request of the prison in order to determine victim’s attitude towards the criminal offence (the reports on the victim’s attitude can be requested by the prison from MoJ, police, social welfare centres, when deciding whether to allow the prisoner to use benefits of going out of the prison to their address of residence)
– Provision of compensation to victims: according to the Crime Victims Compensation Act
– Coordination of the National Committee for Monitoring and Development of Victim and Witness Support System
– Monitoring the work of the National Call Center for Victims of Crime and Misdemeanors – 116 006, which is established in cooperation between Ministry of Justice and Victim and Witness Support Association
– Membership in different State’s bodies enables our cooperation with relevant stakeholders. Representatives of Independent Service are members of: National team for Prevention and Combating Domestic Violence and Violence against Women, National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking and Operative Team of the National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking
II. Courts – Victim and Witness Support Offices at courts
There are seven Victim and Witness Support Offices at the County Courts in Zagreb, Osijek, Sisak, Vukovar, Zadar, Split and Rijeka. Support is also provided at the Municipal and the Misdemeanor Courts.
Support Offices provide different types of support to victims and witnesses: emotional support, practical help and information; information on victims’ rights; information about the national criminal justice system; assistance in applying for compensation, with special consideration for the needs of vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
Support Offices are available for victims and witnesses, members of their families and persons accompanying them.
Support is provided by highly qualified employees of the court and volunteers, before, during and after the criminal proceedings – from the moment of reporting the crime to the police until the end of the court proceedings. Victims and witnesses can contact offices by telephone, e-mail, letter or personally at the Support Office premises.
Victims and witnesses are usually informed and referred to the Victim and Witness Support Offices by the police, court’s subpoena, local NGOs, National Call Center for Victims of Crime and Misdemeanors – 116 006, social welfare centres and personally upon arrival at the court.
As a part of interagency cooperation victims and witnesses are also referred by Support Offices and MoJ to relevant institutions and organisations which provide specialised services for victims, in order to address their specific needs and to get additional forms of help.
For more information, visit our Ministry of Justice website:
The Women’s Room – Center for Sexual Rights is a non-governmental, feminist, non-profit organization established with the aim of empowerment of women and raising awareness of institutions and general public about women’s sexuality and sexual rights through education, research, advocacy and public work. The Women’s Room provides direct and indirect assistance and support to persons who survived sexual violence. The vision of the Women’s Room is a society free from patriarchy, discrimination, misogyny and gender-based violence, where individual choice is the fundamental value.
Women`s Room goals are:
o Elimination of against all forms of sex, gender and sexual discrimination;
o Empowerment of women in exercising their fundamental human rights;
o Prevention of sexual violence against women and sexual and gender minorities;
o Provision of direct help to women who have survived sexual violence;
o Promotion and protection of sexual rights pursuant to the Declaration of Sexual Rights;
o Introduction of comprehensive and inclusive sexual education based on scientific facts, at all education levels;
o Promotion of positive attitudes on female sexuality, sexual health and freedom of choice;
o Elimination of discrimination based on gender expression and/or identity, sexual orientation, and intersexual characteristics;
o Empowerment of LGBTIQ persons in exercising their fundamental human rights.
Organizational goals are fulfilled through 5 activities:
o Center for Victims of Sexual Violence
o Scholarly research
o Development of public policy against sexual violence through public works, lobbying and networking
Our core activity is Center for Victims of Sexual Violence in which our experts provide direct and indirect support and help for victims of sexual violence. Our team is working with victims through providing: support during the process of reporting sexual violence (accompanying the survivor to the police and hospital); preparations for court proceedings; counselling and therapy: crisis counselling (medical, legal and psychological), trauma-focused therapy, psychological counselling for family or friends of the victim; development of and publishing different materials for victims.
Our other main activity are educations. Women`s Room team is making a great efforts in the implementation of educational programs on the topic of violence against women, sexual violence, trafficking in women for sexual exploitation, sex and gender, sexual rights, women’s sexuality, sexual and gender minorities. Educational programs are implemented through trainings, workshops, lectures, supervision, consultations, seminars, performances, concerts and other public events.
All our activities are focused on mainly women victims of gender-based violence with emphasis on sexual violence, children, youth, representatives of relevant state institutions, representatives of civil society organizations, LGBTIQ population persons, society at large.
Women`s Room launched a web site “Safe Zone” (www.sigurnomjesto.hr/en/) intended for women who are victims of all forms of violence in 2012. This web site have unique search engine with contacts of all relevant institutions (police stations, hospitals, courts, civil society shelters and counselling centers, etc.) for all Croatian regions.
Women`s Room officially opened in April 2008 the Center for Victims of Sexual Violence. The Center is the only referral center for victims of sexual violence in Croatia and their close persons (family members, friends, partners, etc.). The main objective of the Center for Victims of Sexual Violence is improving the quality of life for survivors of any form of sexual violence. Center continues to to expand its services and improve the quality of work through the years because of providing holistic and feministic approach to survivors and their close persons.
Organization launched the web site “Safe Zone” (www.sigurnomjesto.hr/en/) intended for women who are victims of all forms of violence in 2012. This web site have unique search engine with contacts of all relevant institutions (police stations, hospitals, courts, civil society shelters and counselling centers, etc.) for all Croatian regions.
Women`s Room organized and held the first international conference on sexual violence in Croatia, called “System of Public Policies and Support for Victims of Sexual Violence” , which took place on 23rd of October 2015 in Zagreb in the Croatian Parliament. The conference was organized by Women’s Room – Center for Sexual Rights, as a part of the EU project PROGRESS – My Voice against Violence, in partnership with the Governmental Office for Gender Equality of Croatia and civil society organization CESI (Center for Education, Counseling and Research). The conference is co-organized by the Parliamentary Committee for Gender Equality. The goals of the conference were: raising awareness about the unacceptability of all forms of violence against women and girls; informing relevant governmental bodies and institutions about the problem of insufficient support for victims/survivors of sexual violence in Croatia; improving support-systems for sexual violence victims/survivors through the development and implementation of public policies and necessary services when working with victims/survivors; establishing and strengthening interdepartmental cooperation of all relevant bodies, institutions and civil society organizations providing support to victims and combating sexual violence. Topics of the conference were: the importance of providing help and support to victims/survivors of sexual violence; the role of the Protocol of Conduct in Case of Sexual Violence; examples of good practice in combating sexual violence from European states.
The conference gathered international and national experts like: Liz Kelly (United Kingdom, London Metropolitan University, Head of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit), Catherine Le Magueresse (France, Sorbonne University), lepa mladjenovic (Serbia, Consultations for Lesbians, Belgrade), Biljana Branković (Serbia, Independent Researcher, consultant, a member of GREVIO – The Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence), Helenca Pirnat Dragičević (Croatia, Ombudswoman for Children), Goran Arbanas (University Psychiatric Hospital Vrapče, Department for Forensic Psychiatry) and so on.
During 2017 Women’s Room started a campaign #ShareResponsibly. The campaign was created with the aim of sensitizing and informing young people about all forms of sexualized violence, electronic and electronic sexualized violence, ways of prevention and about mechanisms of protection and support in case of violence. Campaign is implemented on three social networks (Facebook, YouTube and Instagram). It had and it’s still having a great impact in Croatia on a field of rising awareness about electronic sexualized violence.
Links to campaign:
Women`s Room started in 2013 to organize and implement specialized educations for experts, persons who work with victims of gender-based violence, ie. sexual violence and domestic violence. This specialized educations last for 60 to 80 hours through 3 or 4 modules (one module lasts one or two day). Participants in educations are persons who are coming in contact with victims: expert staff from the police, educational system, judicial system, healthcare system and representatives of civil society organizations. Trainings featured lectures from psychologists, judges from misdemeanour court, county court and court for youth, doctors psychiatrists, social workers, and so on. Women`s Room latest specialized education was organized and held in two Croatian towns in parallel, in Zagreb and Slavonski Brod through four modules. Education named “Specialized training for expert personnel working with victims of sexual violence” finally finished 60 persons from this two towns.