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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dutch Group Counsels On Rape Victim Services

A Dutch team of law enforcement officials are in Russia this week to help Russian police foster a kinder, gentler approach towards treating victims of rape and domestic violence.

Over the weekend police officers and rape crisis counselors from Holland conducted a seminar for crisis-center activists, lawyers, and police investigators entitled "Helping Survivors of Violence: Cooperation Between Police and Crisis Centers."

Sponsored by the Dutch government, the team will move on to Murmansk and St. Petersburg, where they will meet with representatives of the Interior Ministry as well as young police cadets.

"Twenty-five years ago we had the same struggle," said Inneke van der Vlugt, the coordinator of a center for the prevention of sexual violence, who was part of the training team from Holland.

"We distrusted the police so we wouldn't cooperate with them, but after a few years we realized that we needed them," said van der Vlugt. The Dutch police now have a separate unit to deal with victims of sexual assault, she added, but two decades ago they often blamed the rape victims for provoking the violence.

Victims of sexual violence in Russia face a similar situation today, and they have little recourse against their attackers, activists say.

According to Natalya Gaidarenko, the executive director of Syostri, Moscow's Sexual Assault Recovery Center, less than 5 percent of all rape victims in Russia actually report the crime to the police.

"The official number of registered rape cases annually is around 15,000, but the actual number is much higher than that," said Gaidarenko at a press conference Monday. "The majority of the attacks are by acquaintances or relatives of the victim."

While a network of grassroots rape crisis centers has sprung up across Russia over the last two years, the volunteers providing services to survivors of rape and domestic violence say that they have often come up against a brick wall when trying to foster cooperation with the police.

"We understand that crime in general is rising," said Tatyana Lipovskaya, Syostri's director of police cooperation programs. "But this is a crime just like any other and we have to battle against it."