The Albanian Women’s Empowerment Network (AWEN) found that 22% of adolescents have already experienced intimate partner violence by the age of 19 years old.

In a report that surveyed 1036 men and women between the ages of 16 and 19, split almost equally between rural and urban areas, a number of conclusions were reached that should cause significant alarm.

Results found that those that are exposed to or experience domestic violence as an adolescent are three times as likely to experience more violence in intimate relationships as they get older. The report refers to it as a “cycle of violence” and indicates that 43 percent of the young people who have been victims of domestic violence are also victims of intimate partner violence, versus 16 percent of those who have not experienced domestic violence.

Staggeringly, 89% of the men and women surveyed believe that violence perpetrated against women and girls is a “serious issue in their community” and almost 40% know a female that has been violated or subjected to violence.

Even more concerningly, out of those surveyed 64% believe that either controlling their partner’s social media activity, or having theirs controlled is acceptable, and 52% believe that it is ok to decide who their partner should socialise with. Further instances of emotional and psychological abuse such as shouting at their partner and ignoring them was tolerated with 38% and 28% respectively thinking that this is ok.

A number of European countries including Ireland, the UK, and France are moving to criminalise psychological violence and even street harassment in the same way as physical and sexual violence. This includes controlling behavior and restriction of rights and activities such as those specified above.

In a country where according to the United Nations, over 50% of women will suffer from domestic and intimate partner violence in their lives, it is concerning to see such statistics coming from the younger generation.

The US State Department raised a number of concerns in their recent Human Rights Report, criticising the government on lack of inaction regarding gender-based violence.

For example, whilst spousal rape is illegal, the report alleges that officials failed to prosecute those involved with authorities often not considering it a crime. The report stated that “domestic violence against women remained a serious problem” and it gave examples of the case of Xhisiela Maloku and Judge Fildez Kasemi.

So far in 2019, at least eight women (here and here) have been murdered in Albania and in 2018, 4000 court protection orders were issued in favour of women, against domestic partners.

There have been two protests so far (here and here) this year with citizens demanding an end to impunity and for the authorities to take instances of rape, violence, and abuse inflicted on girls and women more seriously. They criticised the government’s handling of a number of cases where perpetrators have been protected from legal action and where the women have had their details leaked to the media, resulting in harassment and dehumanisation. Civil society groups also criticised the media for victim blaming those who are affected and for referring to a number of femicides as a “crime of passion” rather than just a crime.

— Alice Elizabeth Taylor