Why this story matters:
The history of state protection for female victims of domestic violence is relatively short in Austria -- the first women's shelter was opened 40 years ago. Today, 30 facilities provide women and children with secure accommodation. In a new campaign of the Austrian Women's Shelter Network (AÖF), the institution informs the public about their history and current tasks.
Before the 1970s, violence against women was a social taboo in Austria. The issue became a public topic only at the beginning of the so-called second wave of the international women's movement. This initiated a process of social modernization and rethinking.
"Women's shelters make a significant, indispensable contribution to society. They are open to all victims of violence, regardless of nationality, income or religion," the AÖF statement read.
However, despite the 30 shelters in operation, some women still lack refuge. Maria Rösslhumer, spokeswoman for the alliance GewaltFREI leben, which aims to implement the Council of Europe Convention against gender-based and domestic violence, calls for swift and unbureaucratic transnational reception of women affected by violence in women's shelters.
While the financing of women's shelters in some federal states such as Upper Austria is assured by law, the Salzburg women's shelters have only one contract for two years. Across Austria, the Austrian Women's Shelter Network reports having had to reject women in recent years. In 2016, 336 of them could not be admitted.
"Although we are an institution supportive during acute crises, we have to keep a waiting list," claims Birgit Thaler-Haag, head of the Women's Shelter Network.
Details from the story:
- Austria's first women's shelter was opened on 1 November 1978 in Vienna.
- Today, victims of violence receive protection in 30 shelters.
- In 2016, a total of 1,588 women and 1,673 children found refuge in those institutions.