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Survivors Speak: Reflections on Criminal Justice System Responses to Domestic Violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina

16 December, 2015



Domestic violence has increasingly been recognized as a societal problem and a criminal act as opposed to a private family matter. This is demonstrated by legislation that criminalizes acts of family violence and promotes gender equality and human rights. The question remains, however, whether criminal justice system professionals – police, prosecutors and judges – are applying existing legislation intended to hold perpetrators accountable, protect victims and their children and ultimately interrupt the damaging intergenerational pattern of domestic violence. This research explores the experiences of survivors of systematic domestic violence and contrasts those stories with common theories on the causes of domestic violence and criminal justice system practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The resulting publication reveals the extent to which systematic domestic violence is not appreciated as a serious criminal violation, and as a result, places victims, their children and the community at increased risk. Survivors Speak goes on to concretely identify evidence based risk factors within cases of domestic violence, validated through qualitative research in BiH. These risk factors can be used by criminal justice system professionals to appropriately assess and tailor the police, prosecutorial and judicial response to domestic violence, thereby enhancing victim and community safety and interrupting the intergenerational cycle of domestic violence.


Heather Huhtanen