How does our lawyer Anka address the issue of violence in the context of addictions

Our non-profit organization BUDÚCNOSŤ, n.o. operating in Nitra and the wider area is currently implementing a project called “FUTURE WITHOUT VIOLENCE”. Improvement and innovation of services provided for persons at risk of violence in the context of addiction, which is implemented from October 2022 to March 2024. The goal of the project is to offer specialized services for persons experiencing violence in connection with addiction, while it is directly addressed to clients experiencing violence in the context of addiction, children of clients at risk of violence in the context of addiction, teaching staff of primary schools and also the general public by bringing the topic closer and, in particular, providing the possibilities of solving the mentioned problems. We present a series of mini-interviews with female employees of our organization, who at the same time represent various types of so-called helping professions.


Interview with lawyer and mediator Mgr. Anna Minárová

1/ In what position do you work in the organization BUDÚCNOSŤ, n.o. and what is your main job in relation to the Norwegian project?
I am a lawyer and my main job is to provide free legal advice and other services to victims of violence or crimes.

According to the law, a victim of a crime is any natural person who, as a result of a crime, has been or could have been physically harmed, caused property, moral or other damage, or his/her rights or freedoms protected by law have been violated or endangered. A relative is also a victim of a crime – in the direct line (children of the victim or parents of the victim), sibling, adopter, adoptee, spouse and person who lived in the same household at the time of death, a person dependent on the person whose death was caused by a crime. Any person who claims to be a victim is considered a victim until proven otherwise, regardless of whether the perpetrator of the crime has been identified, prosecuted or convicted. Every victim has basic rights: to be heard, to have access to information that concerns him/her in order to receive it in an understandable form and in an understandable language, the right to respect, esteem and sensitive treatment, the right to professional or specialized assistance from entities providing assistance to victims and the right for compensation.  

2/ What professional background does your position require, or what competences and skills you need to have and why?
This job position requires a master university degree in law, while I also use my 20 years of experience in this work. From 2002, I have worked in the non-profit sector and provided services to victims of any violence that require knowledge in the field of criminal law, the Act on Victims of Crime, the Family Act as well as civil law regulations.

In addition, I completed a mediation course in December 2015, and since January 2016, I have been registered as a mediator in the register of the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic.

Part of this work is also the mandatory training of mediators, and some topics can be used in my work with clients.

3/ What do you think about the mutual link between the two great themes, addictions and violence?

If we want to define the connection of the two themes, we need to define the relevant terms. Violence is any form of domination where the abuser abuses his/her power over the victim in such a way that by means of physical, psychological, economic, social and sexual coercion or threats, he/she harms the victim and causes him/her physical or psychological trauma. In violence, the aggressor behaves in such a way that the victim is forced to do what he/she does not want to do, or does not do something he/she wants to do, or is afraid to do anything. Psychological violence is therefore any behavior that directly violates the free will and self-esteem of another person. Although it leaves no visible wounds, it can nevertheless be the worst form of violence. It is especially effective when combined with physical violence. A special form of violence is secondary victimization, but also the failure to prevent violence.”                                                        

 Addiction is a state of psychological and sometimes physical dependence, created between a living organism and a narcotic substance, characterized by changes in behavior with an uncontrollable desire to get this substance into the body in any way for its effects on the psyche, and also to use the narcotic substance in order to avoid the unpleasantness of its absence in organism. This desire for the repeated use of an addictive substance that satisfies some psychological need of a person (alcohol, drug) prevails over self-control and rational arguments. Addiction tends to increase the consumed dose or shorten the intervals of its use, or both at the same time.

It means that people who are addicted to narcotic substances (alcohol, drugs, gambling…) that satisfy their psychological need do not shy away from satisfying it in any, even violent and aggressive way, which has destructive effects not only on the user but also on his/her surroundings (family, society) The use of psychoactive substances is a very common cause of aggressive behavior, which often fulfills the factual essence of a criminal act.

4/ What is your preferable approach to clients and why?
When consulting with clients, I clearly prefer an individual approach based on the assessment of the victim with the aim of identifying the act and their special need for protection.

When communicating with a victim, trust is extremely important for the victim to tell the truth about the violence. . I try to adhere to the following basic principles during counseling:

  • It is important to get as much information as possible from the victim about the nature of domestic violence.
  • It is important to take the victim seriously, listen to him/her, do not depreciate what she/he tells us, do not doubt her/him or justify the violence. 
  • To tell the victim that the person who commits the violence is always responsible for the violence. Every issue can be resolved without violence. No behavior or provocation is an excuse for violence.
  • It is important to provide the information that everyone has the right to live without violence.
  • Victims need to know that they are nota lone, that there are many others who suffer from violence and that the use of relevant legal means is the way out of violence.
  • Victims need to be told that violence will not stop; on the contrary, it usually graduates. 
  • We discuss the legal opportunities for solving the situation (provided by civil and criminal law), but we do respect the victim´s decisions (and do not force her/him to anything).
  • Victims are given assistance in daily matters and also in child protection matters. 
  • We offer accompanying the victim in case of need – in contacts with police, bureaus, courts of law etc. 
  • We look for a safe place where she/he can leave, also with children. 

As part of the analysis of the overall situation with the possibility of finding solutions, it is essential to focus on the personal characteristics of the victim, the type or nature of the crime, the circumstances of the crime. Since the victim knows the situation in the family and the possible reactions of those around her/him, she/he has the right to choose what suits her/him best after a thorough analysis of all legal options.

5/ Which themes are the most visible ones in the sphere of violence in the context of addictions in your opinion? Which ones require the most thorough solutions?

  1. Violence accepted by society.
  2. A high proportion of perpetrators of domestic violence, who are intelligent, do not abuse their victims physically, but psychologically, economically, socially, sexually, they are dangerous personalities, have a disease or a personality disorder, whose destructive behavior has long-term destructive effects on the victims, destroys their self-esteem, causes a number of health problems, negatively affects their thought processes. They are difficult to detect even in professional circles.
  3. High latency and difficult proving of long-term domestic violence of a predominantly psychological nature (silence of the victim, silence of witnesses, lack of evidence, which is often destroyed by the perpetrator of violence.)

Psychological abuse is the most common form of domestic violence. Domestic violence is not just about bruises. The term domestic violence refers to acts of violence aimed at controlling or oppressing another being by various methods. They are not attacks that leave damage on the body. It is also about restricting economic freedom, psychological abuse or claiming the victim’s unconditional devotion. The abuser tries to isolate the person at home as much as possible, tries to prevent contact with parents, friends or colleagues and claims power. His/her behaviour is manipulative and highly sophisticated. He/she can turn the victim into a being who thinks that he/she is absolutely unable to live without him/her.

  1. A victim of psychological abuse in relationships may also experience constant gratuitous jealousy, control, manipulation, and blackmail that forces them to behave in certain ways. In addition, there is a constant lowering of self-esteem, which leads to the belief that she/he deserves nothing better and must live in a hopeless toxic relationship.
  2. Absence of the crime of domestic violence in the criminal law. Jurisdiction in the criminal law regulates only the criminality of crimes – abuse of a close and entrusted person, dangerous threats, dangerous persecution, sexual violence, bodily harm, but does not deal with the criminality of domestic violence, with a lower criminal penalty.  
  3. Domestic violence is often the reason for divorces with subsequent adjustment of parental rights and responsibilities. When making court decisions, the best interests of children should be prioritized over the rights of aggressive parents so that the exercise of parental rights does not jeopardize the safety of victims of domestic violence, including children. Only 30% of the courts examine and subsequently take into account the violent tendencies of the parent in their decision-making activity on ÚRPaP. We often come across cases where a minor child after the divorce of his/her parents or after the breakup of partners, one does not voluntarily want to meet with a violent parent, because such a parent who commits partner violence is also violent towards children in approximately 50%-60% of cases. Courts, but also social guardianship workers, or other interested parties, help institutions prefer the consistent exercise of parental rights, but at the expense of the best interests of minor children.    
  4. Absence of special programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence.
  5. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not list psychological abuse as one of the stressors leading to PTSD, so doctors cannot diagnose it.  
  6. Based on a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, the mental effects of psychological abuse are the same or even worse than the effects of physical and sexual abuse. Mental health professionals as well as social workers do not do enough work to recognize these facts, reveal them and proceed with subsequent intervention in cases of emotional abuse.