Domestic violence (also known as intimate partner violence or abuse), is never okay. Unfortunately, many women and children experience abuse. During pregnancy and new motherhood, women are in a particularly vulnerable state. Research shows that more than 30% of domestic violence starts in pregnancy, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth (NHS-UK).

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence can be done by anyone, but most often it is men who commit abuse against women and children. However, mothers are almost as likely as fathers in Kosovo to commit violence (albeit less physically severe) against their young children in Kosovo. 

Abuse can come in many forms:physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse.

For example, an abusive partner may cause emotional pain by calling you names or constantly blaming you for something you haven't done. An abuser may try to control your behavior by not allowing you to see your family and friends, or by always telling you what you should be doing. Emotional abuse may lead you to feel scared or depressed, eat unhealthy foods, or pick up bad habits such as smoking or drinking.

An abusive partner may try to hurt your body. This physical abuse can include hitting, slapping, kicking, choking, pushing or even pulling your hair. Sometimes, an abuser will aim these blows at a pregnant woman's belly. This kind of violence not only can harm you, but it also can put your unborn baby in grave danger.

Sexual abuse includes being forced to have sex (non-consensual sexual acts) and sexual ill-treatment.

How do you know if you’re in an abusive relationship?

It's common for couples to argue now and then. But violence and emotional abuse are different from the minor conflicts that couples have. Ask yourself:

  • Does my partner always put me down and make me feel bad about myself?
  • Has my partner caused harm or pain to my body?
  • Does my partner threaten me, the baby, my other children or himself?
  • Does my partner blame me for his actions? Does he tell me it's my own fault he hit me?
  • Is my partner becoming more violent as time goes on?
  • Has my partner promised never to hurt me again, but still does?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.

Source: March of Dimes

How common is domestic violence in Kosovo?

It is unfortunately very common in Kosovo:

  • Over 40% of women (and less than 10% of men) said they suffered domestic violence in 2015. (Kosovo Women’s Network 2015, ‘No More Excuses’)
  • Three in every five children under two years old experience psychological aggression or physical punishment in Kosovo. The rate is similar for children up to 14 years old. (The Kosovo Agency of Statistics 2014, ‘2013-2014 Kosovo Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey’)

Despite most Kosovars believing that domestic violence is a shameful behavior, it is ‘normalized’ in Kosovo, meaning it is accepted and/or overlooked. For example, one in three women (aged 15-49 years) believes a husband is justified in hitting or beating his wife in at least one of the following circumstances: (1) she goes out without telling him, (2) she neglects the children, (3) she argues with him, (4) she refuses having sex with him, (5) she burns the food. The poorer and less educated you are in Kosovo, the more likely you are to think domestic violence is acceptable. For women with no formal education the rate of acceptance to domestic violence is almost 80%. (The Kosovo Agency of Statistics, 2014. ‘2013-2014 Kosovo Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey.’)

Domestic violence during pregnancy

Is abuse dangerous to my unborn baby?

Yes, it is dangerous, especially if you are hit in the stomach. According to research from the World Health Organization, domestic violence during pregnancy is linked to higher rates of risk of miscarriage (when your baby dies before 20 weeks pregnancy), low birth weight babies (babies born less than 2.5kg) and premature birth (babies born before 37 weeks pregnancy) which causes numerous short and long-term health risks for the baby. Domestic violence can also cause injury to, or the death of, your unborn baby.

How does abuse affect the pregnant woman?

In addition of being dangerous to your baby, domestic violence during pregnancy is dangerous to the mother. In addition to physical injuries, pregnant women subject to abuse experience “higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, as well as suicide attempts, lack of attachment to the child and lower rates of breastfeeding.”

“Intimate partner violence during pregnancy is significantly associated with a number of adverse health behaviors during pregnancy, including smoking, alcohol and substance abuse, and delay in prenatal care.” (World Health Organization, “Intimate partner violence during pregnancy: Information sheet”)

What can trigger abuse during pregnancy?

For many families, pregnancy can bring about feelings of stress, which is normal. But it's not okay for your partner to react violently to stress. Some partners become abusive during pregnancy because they feel:

  • Upset because this was an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Stressed at the thought of financially supporting a first baby or another baby.
  • Jealous that your attention may shift from your partner to your new baby, or to a new relationship.

Domestic violence after birth

Violence against women

If a woman experiences abuse during pregnancy, it is likely that the abuse will continue after the child is born. The results of such violence for the woman includes include body injuries, permanent disability, and possibly death either at the hand of the perpetrator or themselves (suicide). Victims of domestic violence are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and postnatal depression, and fear. This can make it very difficult for women to properly care for their children or themselves. In Kosovo, 80% of women who suffered domestic violence said they had health problems directly resulting from violence. (Kosovo Women’s Network 2015, ‘No More Excuses’)  

Violence against children

If a woman is subject to domestic violence, it is more likely her child will also be subject to violence. According to, “Research shows that child abuse occurs in anywhere from one-third to more than three-quarters of families in which a partner is also being abused. And even if the child is not abused directly, studies show that children who witness one adult abusing the other within the home are at risk of becoming violent themselves or entering into a violent relationship when they grow up. They're also at high risk for depression and many other psychological and behavioral problems.” (see

“Studies have found that exposing children to violent discipline have harmful consequences, which range from immediate impacts to long-term harm that children carry forward into adult life. Violence hampers children’s development, learning abilities and school performance; it inhibits positive relationships, provokes low self-esteem, emotional distress and depression; and, at times, it leads to risk taking and self-harm.” (The Kosovo Agency of Statistics 2014, ‘2013-2014 Kosovo Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey’).

“KWN’s 2008 research found that respondents who had suffered violence as children, were less likely to have university degrees as compared to those who did not suffer violence; were more likely to be unemployed; and had lower total household incomes. Further, respondents who had suffered violence early in childhood were more prone to suffer violence later in life.” (Kosovo Women’s Network 2015, ‘No More Excuses’)

Today, fewer Kosovars believe spanking a child is an acceptable form of discipline, but about one-third still believe it is OK. Women are more than twice as likely as men to yell at their child or spank them as a form of discipline. This underscores the fact that it is not just the man who commits violence against their children. (Kosovo Women’s Network 2015, ‘No More Excuses’) This could be result of their own history as a victim of abuse and the additional pressures of motherhood since they do most of the constant and demanding care of young children. Men, however, typically inflict more serious violence on children than women.

What can you do if you or someone you know suffers from domestic violence in Kosovo?

There is no excuse for domestic violence. Ever.

Attitudes and responses to domestic violence are slowly improving in Kosovo. Police and the courts are better trained to respond and Victim’s Advocates, Centers for Social Welfare and shelters all appear to be doing a better job at dealing with this immense problem.

What should you do if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence?

If you experience or witness assault we encourage you to call the police, especially if it is an emergency. You can also call the free help line number: 0800 11112. This is run by the Victim’s Assistance and Advocacy division of the Kosovo Public Prosecutor’s Office. The people who answer help victims of domestic violence, or people who report any such violence, by supplying them with information and contact numbers.

Keep in mind that under Kosovo law “failing to report child abuse or domestic violence is a criminal offence, and anyone who fails to report criminal offences occurring within a domestic relationship can be held criminally liable.” (Kosovo Women’s Network 2015, ‘No More Excuses’, See Art. 385, failure to report preparation of criminal offenses, paragraph 3)

What are your legal rights?

Material courtesy of OSCE “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims”

Under the Kosovo Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, acts of domestic violence are defined as intentional acts or omissions when committed by a person against another person with whom the person is in a domestic relationship. This includes anyone you currently share, or previously shared, a household with. These acts include, but are not limited to, a) use of physical force or psychological pressure; b) inflicting or threatening to inflict physical pain or psychological suffering on another family member; c) causing the feeling of fear or threat of dignity; d) physical assault; e) insult, offence, calling by offensive names, and other forms of violent intimidation; f) repetitive behaviours with the aim to denigrate the person; g) non-consensual sexual acts; h) unlawful limiting of the freedom of movement of the other person; i) damaging the property or threatening to damage the property of another family member; j) causing the other person to fear for his or her physical, emotional or economic wellbeing; k) forcibly entering or removing from a common residence the other family member; and l) kidnapping. (Law No. 03/L-182 on Protection against Domestic Violence, 2010, at: http://www.assembly-

Art. 2, paragraph 1.2.)

The Law on Protection against Domestic Violence provides a set of legal measures aiming to protect domestic violence victims. The law defines concepts such as domestic violence and domestic relationships and explains which kind of protection measures and orders exist as well as the procedures to follow in order to obtain them.

How does the law protect you and/or your children against domestic violence?

Material courtesy of OSCE “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims”

Protection measures are measures issued by a court or the police to protect a person who is exposed to violence by changing the circumstances which may allow the perpetrator to commit more acts of violence. Protection measures can limit perpetrators from visiting their places of residence and can prohibit perpetrators from seeing their children, in addition to other measures. These measures are issued for the duration of a protection order. Once protection measures end, they will no longer affect the property rights or the custody rights of the perpetrator.

A municipal court can issue protection orders or emergency protection orders containing one or more protection measures. Kosovo police can issue temporary emergency protection orders containing only some of the protection measures.

A petition for a protection order can be submitted by:

  • A victim of domestic violence;
  • An authorized representative of the victim;
  • A victim’s advocate (upon consent of the protected party);
  • A representative of the centre for social welfare of the municipality where the victim permanently or temporarily resides, when the victim is a minor;
  • A non-governmental organization (NGO) that is familiar with the situation of the victim.

Kosovo police are responsible for ensuring that the perpetrator obeys the protection measures. A violation of a protection order is a criminal offence and the violator will be sentenced to a fine and imprisonment.

To read the full report by OSCE, “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims” go to:

What are the responsibilities of the police?

Material courtesy of OSCE “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims”

Kosovo police are responsible for responding to any report of acts or threats to commit acts of domestic violence or to any violation of a protection order, an emergency protection order or a temporary protection order, regardless of who reports it. The police will complete an incident report whether or not a crime was committed or an arrest was made, and will provide a copy of the report to the victim or legal representative.

Apart from issuing temporary emergency protection orders, Kosovo police are responsible for using reasonable means to protect domestic violence victims and prevent further violence, such as:

  • Establishing a special phone line for reporting domestic violence cases;
  • Providing the victim or the victim’s legal representative with the official contact of the investigating police officer in cases where the victim needs further assistance; In case there is no investigating police officer, any other officer will assist the victim;
  • Informing the victim, legal representative or victim’s advocate about the rights of the victim pursuant the law on domestic violence, including the right to request a temporary emergency protection order;
  • Informing the victim about legal, psychological and other assistance available from government institutions as well as from the authorized network of NGOs;
  • Informing relevant service providers regarding the incident of domestic violence and facilitating contact with the victim, upon the victim’s request;
  • Providing transport for the victim and, when necessary, the victim’s dependants to:

• An appropriate medical facility for treatment or medical examination;

• A shelter or other suitable safe haven, upon the request of the victim;

  • Providing protection to the person who reports the incident, if needed, in accordance with relevant legal obligations regarding the protection of witnesses;
  • Removing the perpetrator from the temporary or permanent residence of the victim or a portion thereof (in regard to the protection measure of removal from apartment, house or other living premises).

In addition, police must immediately report the incident to the centre for social welfare of the municipality where the person permanently or temporarily resides in the cases where:

  • The victim is a person under the age of 18 or a person who does not have the capacity to act on his or her own;
  • The acts of domestic violence are so serious that they impact the safety or security of a person under the age of 18 or that of a person who does not have the full capacity to act and who is living in the same residence as the perpetrator.

What is a shelter and what are their services?

Material courtesy of OSCE “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims”

A shelter is a safe place where domestic violence victims and their children can temporarily stay and which provides protection and other services. Currently there are shelters in Gjakova/Đakovica, Gjilan/Gnjilane, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Pejë/Peć, Prishtinë/Priština and Prizren that host victims from communities all over Kosovo.

Victims can stay in the shelter for six months. This can be extended upon agreement with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.

Shelters usually provide victims with accommodation, food, clothing, counseling (psychosocial and legal advice), medical support, vocational trainings (language, computer, internet, reading and writing, sewing, cooking, hairdressing, tailoring), health education, job-seeking services, and activities for children (music, drawing, dancing) among other services. The shelters are patrolled by the police and have various other security arrangements.

Some shelters also contribute to preventing domestic violence by organizing awareness-raising activities and outreach visits to rural areas. Some shelters are also involved in monitoring and advocating for a legal and policy framework in Kosovo that is properly funded and that protects domestic violence victims. Some others conduct regular visits to the victims, once they return to their families or become independent.

How can I help a friend or family member who is a victim of domestic violence?

  • Talk to the abuse victim person and ask how you can help. If old enough, encourage them to reach out for support and counseling. Remind them it is not their fault. No one deserves to be abused.
  • Don’t judge and don’t tell the victim what to do. Listen to and believe what they say. Be patient.
  • Often, victims of domestic violence are isolated and without support. Help to develop or keep their outside contacts.
  • Help her and her children to stay safe. Talk to her about ways she can do this and encourage her to think of ways herself.
  • Call the free help line, 0800 11112, to get more information about what can be done. This might be safer than trying to directly intervene, which can be dangerous for both you and the victim. If you are worried about reprisals, clear your phone call history after making any such calls.

For more information

  • Call the free help line number: 0800 11112, run by the Victim’s Assistance and Advocacy division of the Kosovo Public Prosecutor’s Office for more information and contact numbers.
  • You will find the address, email and phone number of all the public institutions (like Victims Advocacy Officers), shelters and NGOs working on domestic violence issues in each municipality of Kosovo on pages 24-54 of the OSCE’s “Catalogue of Advice and Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims”.
  • Kosovo Women’s Network has been at the forefront of serving, protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls in Kosovo since 1996. You can read their report, “No More Excuses” by clicking here.



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