From: Exit Staff

Women trying to call the police for help during, or after being attacked by their intimate partners are being kept on hold according to sources that contacted Exit.

One woman who spoke to Exit under the condition of anonymity said that after being threatened by her partner, she tried to call the state police on 129 and the general emergency number 112.

Upon calling 129 she was placed on hold and made to listen to music while she waited. In the meantime her partner was banging on the locked door she was hiding behind. She made 11 calls to the number between 15:21 and 15:45. Nine of the calls would not connect and she had to redial, and the other two were never answered as she was placed on hold.

In between calling the police number, she tried to call 112 a total of seven times. The line disconnected her twice and she was placed on hold five times for a total of almost 15 minutes.

Thankfully, during this time her partner left the house. She then had a chance to escape and, in violation of curfew as she did not have permission to leave, she made her way on foot across Tirana to a women’s refuge centre.

“I was scared that I would see my partner in the street and I was also scared of being stopped by the police as I did not have the permission to leave,” she said

Director of the women’s refuge centre Sevim Arbana said that this was not a one-off incident.

“They always answer too late. If you call 112, you must wait a long time or they don’t even answer. They play music for a long time. It happens a lot to women I speak with,” she said.

Arbana also said that this happened before the pandemic so it could not be attributed to the current situation.

She added that reports of violence against women were up 40% at her centre and other organisations she works with that are set up to protect and help women.