A look behind the scenes

Safe place for the evening

In the early evening, Theo receives a call from the police. They have received a report of possible honor-related violence and child abuse. Together with the police, an assessment must be made about the safety of the woman and her children.

Once at the station, we engage the woman in conversation. She appears to want to divorce her husband, but her husband and the family on both sides do not accept it. This afternoon she had a conversation with her husband, sister and brother-in-law about this, but this conversation did not go well. The family became angry and reportedly threatened violence. She was branded a “slut” by her own family if she went through with the divorce. She did not feel safe because of this and moved away from home. In addition, she indicates that she has been abused from the beginning of her marriage; previously physical, but in recent years mainly mental abuse. The wife literally says she hates her husband. She initiated a divorce twice before, but under pressure from her family did not follow through. This time she absolutely wants to go through with it, the woman says, which is why she can’t go back home. She is afraid that her husband and her family will react aggressively. She is also concerned for the safety of her three children, ages 10, 8 and 4. Her oldest son is regularly abused, and she demonstrates this with photos and a November 2020 video showing visible injuries. A previous report of abuse was made to Safe Home in 2019, but the violence against her son has been going on since a young age. The woman would like her children to be with her and not with her husband. Police indicate that there is not enough evidence now to actually take criminal action. While the photos and video are worrisome, it is not enough to remove the children from the home, as the father also has custody.

So in this case we are faced with two problems:

  • possible honor-related violence
  • there is a potentially threatening situation for the children

Together with the police, Theo visits the husband to assess the home situation. The focus of this visit is primarily on child safety. Upon opening the door, he reacts lollygagging in surprise when he sees that we are at the door. Theo and the police discuss with him what occurred that afternoon and also express mother’s concerns about the safety of herself and the children. The husband indicates that the conversation went normally and does not recognize his wife’s story. He denies that he or the family threatened or shouted. He also indicates that if his wife wants a divorce, she should do so. He also denies allegedly mistreating his son. According to him, the injuries came from playing soccer and playing. The man is silent when Theo points out that there have been previous incidents and that the photos do not look like soccer injuries.

The children make no anxious or worried impression at all. They have a cheerful presence and the youngest son is affectionate toward his father. Theo and the police are in a dilemma. The stories do not match, and this late at night there is not enough time to investigate the situation. Theo, in consultation with the police, decides that they should do the safe thing and thus ensure peace and safety for the children. This means they ask the man for cooperation. The man agrees, even though he visibly disagrees. He cooperates well and packs a bag for both the children and his wife. The children go along without difficulty and say goodbye to their father.

Meanwhile, a colleague of Theo’s has found a safe place for the evening, where mother and the children can stay at least until the next working day. Theo provides a good handover for the social worker who picks up this case the next day.

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