Spain has perhaps one of the worst rates of domestic violence in western Europe, but it has also, to its credit, started to be appalled at instances of what it calls violencia de genero – gender violence – and to get to grips as a society with the problem, putting in place a raft of measures and organizations to help women in these situations. The terminology of “gender violence” aims to recognize that violence can sometimes be directed at men but it remains statistically clearly evident that the violence in the overwhelming majority of cases is directed at women. The main domestic violence law in Spain is Ley Orgánica 1/2004, de 28 de diciembre, de Medidas de Protección Integral contra la Violencia de Género, though there is also the Canarian Ley 16/2003, de 8 de abril, de prevención y protección integral de las mujeres contra la violencia de género.
If you are suffering from any kind of domestic violence or if you feel at risk, please call 112. They not only have English speaking call handlers but also dedicated staff who are specialized in gender-based violence and who can activate the best resource depending on the domestic violence emergency (Police forces, ambulance, etc). If necessary, they can also immediately activate the Emergency Response Programme for women suffering from domestic abuse: the programme is called D.E.M.A. (Dispositivo de Emergencia Mujeres Agredidas) and you can find out more in English about it HERE. The British Consulate has also produced THIS leaflet specifically directed at those fearing or at risk from domestic violence.
The simple fact is that in 2017 Emergency Services alone received 16,097 calls in the Canaries from victims of domestic violence: the figures, confirmed by 112, are themselves an increase from 2016’s 14,390 calls. A vital point to note is that the law defines domestic violence as any act of physical or psychological violence, including attacks against sexual freedom, threats, humiliation, coercion, sexual abuse, or deprivation of liberty: violencia de genero does not have to be physical to be classified as domestic abuse, and the does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, religion, or any other factor. If you are in this situation, please have a look at THIS leaflet in English which explains the rights you have, which include:
- reporting the violence which will initiate a Court investigation that can result in custodial sentences for the assailant. Remember to report previous incidents as well as the current one … and remember to ask for a copy of your report.
- requesting a Court Order to provide legal protection while this investigation is ongoing. This protection can include eviction or a restraint order covering physical, electronic or postal communication. If you feel that this legal protection is necessary for your safety, you should ideally request it at the same time as you make the report, though it can be made later if, e.g., your home situation deteriorates.
- leaving your home if you are in danger without losing any of your rights. If you need to leave home immediately in order to be safe, remember to take your personal documents with you. You might well need your passport, healthcare documents, bank account details, a rental contract or proof of property ownership, as well as identifying details of the person who has been violent to you, so a copy of his passport, for example.
- full information in accessible and comprehensible form, and advice appropriate to your personal situation from all public services, organizations and administrative offices, most importantly covering your protection and security, what help is available, and where it can be obtained. The Tenerife Cabildo has a Domestic Violence Unit which has several offices on the island and these are called SIAM (Servicio Insular de Atención a la Mujer). If you are based in Tenerife South, the telephone number for the office in Costa Adeje is 922 75 36 19. If you want to find out if there is a SIAM office close to where you live, please click Here
- social services assistance including emergency help, psychological and social support, and women’s refuges, the providing services working in conjunction with the police, Courts, legal aid system and the health service;
- immediate and free legal representation by specialist abogado and procurador (equivalent of solicitor and barrister) in all proceedings resulting from the domestic violence suffered. Under the terms of the Legal Aid Law HERE, if you are later deemed capable of paying for legal services, you will be required to pay the bills incurred.
- a rearrangement or reduction in working hours, though with a corresponding reduction in wages in the latter case, or a temporary suspension of employment with the option to return to work within 6 months (this period can be extended by the Courts for further periods of 3 months up to a maximum of 18). Your right to social healthcare will not be affected. You may not be legally sacked for the exercise of these rights, nor is absence from work a breach of contract if caused by an accredited physical or psychological condition arising from domestic violence. If you are self-employed, and have to stop working in order to be safe, you are entitled to a 6-month exemption from social security payments. Again, your right to social healthcare will not be affected.
Anyone fluent in Spanish should also know that there is a domestic violence hotline – 016 – and a website HERE that is private and confidential, and secure even to the point of being able to delete your browsing history on it, dedicated to the fight against violencia de genero in Spain.
I am once again grateful to the Consulate for their collaboration in composing this information.