Violence against women and domestic violence — 6 ways our new proposal will make a difference

We are committed to protecting women from violence, using all the levers at our disposal, from legislation to practical measures, such as international initiatives and funding programmes. Now, we are taking a critical step forward with a brand new legislative proposal.

Violence against women — whether inside the home or outside of it — is a traumatic human rights violation. The figures speak for themselves: one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. One in two have experienced sexual harassment. One in 20 women report having been raped.

Online violence is also on the rise, targeting in particular women in public life, such as journalists and politicians. In 2020, 52% of young women were affected and over 80% thought the phenomenon was increasing.

Driven by the scale and severity of the issue, the European Commission has decided to take action by proposing a new, EU-wide law to combat violence against women in all its forms, and also domestic violence.

Here are some practical things that our proposal would deliver.

1. Uniform, consent-based definitions of rape

Violence against women, and domestic violence, are criminalised in different ways across the EU. For example, in 18 EU countries, criminal responsibility for rape is currently linked to the use of force or threats. Our proposal would introduce common definitions of rape, based simply on lack of consent.

2. Criminalisation of cybercrimes

Non-consensual sharing of intimate images and cyber stalking will be made criminal offences. Victims will be entitled to adequate support, including advice on how to seek legal help, and how to remove content.

3. Safer reporting procedures

Violence against women and domestic violence are underreported crimes, for many reasons. To make the process less uncomfortable for victims and witnesses, our proposal introduces new ways to report incidents, which are gender-sensitive, safer, easier, more accessible — including online — and child-friendly.

4. Risk assessments for offenders

Authorities would be obliged to conduct individual risk assessments when the victim first makes contact, to assess the risk posed by the offender — including the likelihood of repeat violence, bodily harm or the use of weapons. Where the assessment says it is needed, authorities would need to ensure the victim is legally protected with emergency barring and protection orders. For example, the order could be to remove an attacker from the victim’s home and stop them returning, or give a legal order to stop an abuser texting the victim.

5. Respect for the victim’s privacy

To avoid triggering negative experiences in the form of intrusive questioning, we are proposing that evidence or questions relating to the victim’s private life, especially their sexual history and conduct, can only be used when strictly necessary.

6. Clarity around compensation

Victims would have the right to claim full compensation from offenders for damages, including the costs of healthcare, support services, rehabilitation, lost income, physical and psychological harm and reputational damage. Victims would be able to file a complaint up to 5 years later, and 10 years later in the case of sexual violence. Dated from when the victim knows about the offence, not from when it happens (this can be different, for example when images are shared without consent).

This new proposal, when approved, will be a critical step towards protecting women, both inside and outside of the home. And these 6 practical outcomes are just some of the changes the new law will bring — it is designed to tackle all aspects of violence against women throughout the EU.

The EU works closely with national authorities and civil society on these issues. Fighting gender-based violence and promoting gender equality is a key priority of the new funding programme ‘Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values’, worth €1.55 billion in 2021–27.

For 2022, the European Commission is offering €30.5 million to organisations that can run projects to prevent and combat violence against women and children.

There is no place for any form of violence against women in Europe.

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Official Medium account of @EU_Commission | Stories, posts & articles about our work. Our social media policy: https://ec.europa.eu/info/social-media-use