The online news publication Nettavisen.no wanted to cover alcohol-related domestic violence in Norwegian households during the Christmas holidays, but found this phenomenon to be a myth as far as Oslo is concerned. According to the leader of the Oslo police’s domestic violence unit, Stein Erik Olsen, 70% of the reported cases occur within families of foreign ethnicity.

«70% of these cases concern families of ethnically foreign origins. The cultures that we’re talking about here, have a very low alcohol consumption and do not celebrate Christmas», says domestic violence unit coordinator Stein Erik Olsen to Nettavisen.

He continues: «What we have seen here in the neighborhood of Stovner, is that the number of cases has decreased during Ramadan.»

Olsen does not wish to speculate why the rate of domestic violence decreases during the Muslim month of fasting.

For close to ten years, the Norwegian National Police Directorate has been targeting family violence in a nation wide campaign. As part of this effort, a domestic violence coordinator position has been established in each police district. In addition, any case of family violence resulting in a police response, is now automatically investigated and possibly taken to court. New legislation for violence and abuse in close relations has been introduced and the maximum sentence increased. The number of cases brought before the district court of Oslo shows the results of these new measures:

The number of cases of violence and abuse in close relations has increased from 633 cases in 2008 to 932 cases during the first eleven months of 2011.

Statistics from the police directorate show a 168% increase from 2007 to 2001 in the number of reported violations of paragraph 219 of the criminal code.

«Our goal is not to reduce the number of reported cases. There are probably many more out there that need help. Our goal is to uncover and combat domestic violence. A lower number of cases would only indicate a less effective police», says Olsen. The police superintendent is the lead investigator at the police district of Stovner, a borough in Oslo.

One of the challenges with other cultures is that they have different norms and a different attitude towards women than what is generally accepted in Norwegian society, Olsen tells Nettavisen.

«In the worst cases that we encounter, the way that culture dictates the family relations is quite extreme, and their rules and practices are at odds with the norms in Norway. But we have steadily gained insight into the nature of such cases and there is an increasing number of women from these cultures that do not accept their traditional role. Reporting to the police is very difficult for many of them. Often, the act of speaking to us means making a break with the only people they know in a foreign country», says Olsen.

Nonetheless, an increasing number of people from these groups now seek the police’s help. Olsen sees this as a sign of an increased trust in the police. More and more members of the public contact the police in order to file complaints, now that they see that the police takes them seriously and that society does not turn a blind eye to violence in close relations. Kari Næss Omvik at the Women’s Crisis Center in Fredrikstad confirms the trend:

«Today, our cooperation with the police functions well. We feel that they are more helpful and that they listen to these people», says Omvik.

But even if society takes a stand against family violence, it is often difficult for the victims of domestic violence to understand what is happening to them, and to break out of the relationship.

Nettavisen: – Står for 70 prosent av familievolden i Oslo (in Norwegian)

translation: Borealis