The Berlin Intervention Project Against
Domestic Violence - BIG an innovative, community-wide
alliance for change
The Berlin Intervention Project Against Domestic Violence (BIG) is a broad alliance for cooperation linking shelters and womens advocacy projects, public administration, police, the justice system, child protection and welfare agencies, mens counselling projects and other organizations that encounter domestic violence in their work. It is supported by the city and federal governments and was funded as a "model project" for three years. Similar, but usually less comprehensive projects are developing in many German cities.
Aims and objectives
The goal of BIG is to improve the situation and secure the safety of women subjected to domestic violence; to this end, it aims to call men to account for violent acts. Thus, BIG pursues strategies of prevention and reduction of domestic violence by means of
better securing protection and support for women and their children,
improving the rights of battered women and the legal redress available to them,
pressing for clear social condemnation of violence against women,
requiring men to take responsibility for their violence,
coordinating procedures among institutions within a multi-agency approach.
The city of Berlin already has a number of shelters and counselling centres dedicated to meeting the needs of battered women and their children. The priority now is to reframe the problem, which has been seen as a "womens issue"; the burden of ending domestic violence should no longer weigh upon the individual woman. It is the responsibility of the community to safeguard womens human rights and to ensure their health and safety.
The integrated community strategy has meant taking concrete steps to:
make services for women better known and more easily and rapidly accessible;
give women more choices: they should not have to live as refugees in their own country in order to escape domestic violence;
use remedies under existing law to the full, improving police and court procedures.
The BIG alliance has developed an organizational structure enabling it to reach policy decisions across different areas of responsibility and to agree on implementation. The central body is the Political Round Table, where governmental, administrative and nongovernmental organizations and projects meet as equal partners: this body approves all specific measures, and all decisions are made by consensus. Seven permanent working groups study central areas of policy and work out detailed proposals for specific procedures, tools or measures to be introduced. Cooperation in these bodies is facilitated by a central coordinators office, publicly funded but in the employ of an NGO constituted by organisations with a practical commitment to addressing domestic violence.
Three years of cooperation in BIG now shows a tangible impact: