Domestic violence scandal in Serbia

Editor’s note: This article is also available in Romanian.
Most people who have visited the Balkan area will contend that at least the Serbo-Croatian-speaking men are usually people who take no bullshit, and once you meet the Serbian women (be they traditional or more modern) you’ll probably get the impression that feminist policies have little to no chance of being supported by the population.
But, as it is the case of Hungary or Spain, feminism doesn’t really need the support of the population to be imposed upon the people – especially given that men’s suffering is by default ignored pretty much all over the planet. This is particularly true in the Balkans where the “concern” for women’s wellbeing goes through the roof – not only in Serbia but also in Bosnia, Montenegro, the Republic of Macedonia, Croatia – in an area where bombs fell allover the place and tens of thousands of men died and untold thousands remained permanently disabled just a little over 15 short years ago.
And, just like 15 years ago when thousands upon thousands of men were killed because they were men and the entire world looked the other way[1], the same is true in today’s Serbia when it comes to domestic violence against men.
The wall of silence
The overwhelming attitude towards this topic in the Serbian culture seems to be complete and utter silence above anything else. It took years of gathering mountains of cases to get the State to even recognize that male victims of female abuse exist in the first place.
In the entire Balkan area, there is only one domestic violence shelter for men, located in the village Supska, close to the Ćuprija municipality, Serbia. The shelter is being run by a non-governmental organization called Muška Sigurnost (Men’s Safety) and it is, at least in theory, supported by the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights[2]. This support translates in practice that the Ministry acknowledges their existence – which one could think it’s still better than being considered a bunch of misogynistic haters.
The problems, at a legal level, are pretty much the same as everywhere else. The president of Men’s Safety was saying in 2009[3]:

There is no penalty for a woman when she files a false domestic violence report against her husband. Here, I have our client Ljubisa S. (43) who has a court order to be received back into his house, but there is no enforcement. There’s a court order that he must see his children as well, but again – there is no enforcement. He lived in a hotel until he could not pay any longer, and now sleeps here with. We live in a world which seems to be only about women’s human rights.

And it’s mainly due to the efforts of Dušan Trifunović, the founder of Men’s Safety and former mayor of the Ćuprija municipality, that we even get to hear about these disenfranchised men. Until just a few years ago, the Serbian State didn’t even acknowledge that male victims of domestic violence even exist. Now, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights shyly admits that these men exist and claim that between 7 and 10 percent of the Serbian husbands suffer from domestic abuse at the hands of their female partners[4].
Men’s Safety argues that the number is probably much higher and their strongest argument is the reluctance of most men to even attempt to seek help when they find themselves in a situation of abuse. Men’s Safety says that most of the cases they handle are brought to them by a cousin or a friend who notices the abuse going on for an extended period of time – and not by the male victims themselves.
The Feminist opposition
The State is largely ignorant of the problem (except the judiciary, which treats men with a similar meatgrinder mentality, like everyplace else in Europe), but the feminist lobby is aggressively campaigning quite literally against all men.
Zoran Jovanović, the current president of Men’s Safety, recollects a case from 2008 in an interview Vesti that tells you everything you need to know about the feminist lobby in Serbia[5]:

Remember the case from 2008. First, news came out that a man poured hydrochloric acid  on his wife and four children. Vesna Stanojević expressed her opinion about the event and knowingly deceived the public, saying that the man qualifies as a monster. The pressure on the court of the feminist lobby basically sent him to prison. Only seven months later it was found that, in fact, his wife did the crime that he was charged with, and she even tried to kill and/or hurt their children multiple times. Some media outlets have just apologized for the misleading information they printed in one or two sentences, while Vesna Stanojević continued to defend the woman. I just wonder who is going to compensate this innocent man for the seven months he spent in custody. He was found guilty solely because he was a man!

Vesna Stanojević is the coordinator of the network of safe houses for women in Serbia and she makes no secret that she believes all men are violent maniacs, and that she holds this view because she saw once a man attacking his wife and child.
These safe houses for women are mostly used, just like in other parts of Europe, to gain leverage in the divorce courts. Women can get into a safe house and cut off husband’s access to kids by having a relative/friend/accomplice who works in a hospital write a fake battering report. In former Communist countries, bribing a doctor in a State hospital to write a fake report is fairly common and proving in court that it’s a fake takes time and money – usually much more time and money than the divorce.
Also, courts in Serbia make it difficult for men to prove anything. By stalling and prolonging the case until it exceeds the two-year limit required in that country, the courts can throw the entire case out. In short: a man stands little to no chance of winning, no matter what.
To add insult to the injury, Vesna Stanojević and her ilk get media exposure anytime they wish to say something (even if it’s demonstrably false) whilst organizations such as Men’s Safety get little to no media exposure. Zoran Jovanović in the same interview[6]:

I almost have no access to the media and the public. When a man seeks protection, they all make fun of him. This is especially the case when he goes to the Center for Social Work, which is mainly done by and for women.

What Mr. Zoran Jovanović is talking about when he says the Center for Social Work is done by women and for women is that, besides the fact that open mockery of male victims is the common practice, even the application forms to seek aid are entirely using female pronouns, so applying for aid and shelter as a male victim is both de jure and de facto impossible.
Jelena Radević from the Center for Social Work said that she doesn’t understand why men don’t apply for aid[7]:

We are in a position to notice that something is wrong. Basically men are indeed exposed to psychological violence, but they simply do not apply [for help].

Jelena Radević’s claim that psychological violence is the main issue raised by Men’s Safety organization is disingenuous, but her claim that she doesn’t understand why men don’t rush into that Center is even more disingenuous. Dušan Trifunović, the founder of Men’s Safety clarifies[8]:

The forms from the Center for Social Work and the Police reports are solely for women who report domestic violence. A man can not [legally] sign such an application. If that were to be attempted, he would be ridiculed.

But whilst the feminists and the State can get away with ignoring and even openly mocking men that were severely beaten and then jailed because they were beaten, non-feminist women who understand how the dynamics between the sexes work can’t even get away with being pro-male for more than one sentence.
Smiljana Antić, the vice-president of Men’s Safety and the spokeswoman for the organization, has all her statements pushed by the media to include the disclaimer that she doesn’t pretend that women aren’t victims of domestic violence, but that she’s simply pointing out that male victims exist, along with female ones. Ms. Antić was telling to the Serbian press in 2009[9]:

Women may be the weaker sex, but they can also be real experts in verbal and other manipulation techniques. Men need to have their own safe space and that is why I, as a woman, am part of the men’s safe house.

The wall of silence that surrounds this topic is not, however, a product of the feminist lobby, but rather a product of pre-existing ignorance of men’s suffering. Dušan Trifunović, the founder of Men’s Safety said two months ago that[10]:

[it all starts in] the community, especially in the small communities, where the man is marked, isolated and mocked [for complaining of being a vicitm of domestic abuse]

Help for male victims as a joke
Men’s suffering is invisible. So invisible that Đorđe Mišić entered into the world of helping male victims of domestic abuse via what he thought it is a joke[11]. He put up a sign “Safe house for men,” rather jokingly, by his own admission, on his log cabin on the lot where he chops and sells firewood. He had no idea that so many men who suffered abuse at the hands of their wives would contact him. A few months after unwittingly opening the shelter he was saying:

I was joking with my friends, and wrote “Safe house for men.” And then abused husbands actually started coming. I am no establishment, I can’t provide for anyone, but just in case, I do have five beds in the cabin.

However, as time went by, Mišić, who is himself a man who was thrown out of his own house by his wife because he lost his job, realized that there are more men like him out there. So he decided to keep the establishment from Dušan Popović street, not far from Ćele Kula.
Milan Veličković, one of the occupants of Mišić’s “Safe House” told the Serbian press[12]:

When I was fired, my wife told me “Leave, I don’t need you”. During the day, we chop and haul wood around here, and take breaks whenever we want. I am at peace here.

Milan’s story is not uniqe, that’s for sure. Đorđe Mišić was given a small interview in the press a while ago and he talked a bit more about his shelter[13]:

It’s a big pain. Who hasn’t felt the female abusive hand on their skin doesn’t know what it is. I first took refuge here myself from my wife, and then I and others beginning to arrive. All sorts of people come here, one even came late in the night all the wayfrom Kovin. Before that he was sleeping under a bridge, but he told me that he was better off there than anywhere near women.

Kovin is a place that it’s 175 km away from Mišić’s “Safe House”. Also, as we can see, Đorđe Mišić is no longer joking.
Just as in the case of Men’s Safety organization, the Ministry for Human Rights completely ignores Mišić, and ignores the problem that he is treating out of his own pocket while being a victim of the same problem himself. This is frustrating for Mišić:

I am sorry I can’t take better care of people. I think that our government should help. Abused women are entitled to State care, as if domestic violence is somehow different for them. It’s the same pain when a woman beats you up as well.

Instead, the media tried to portray him as a homophobic bigot because he doesn’t include gays in his efforts:

We have different needs [compared to gay people]. If they need something like this, I’m sure the state will help them. I made this place for me and those like me.

Whether you think Đorđe Mišić should include gays in his small shelter or not, the question still stands: Which one is worse? A straight man being thrown out in the street by his wife because he was fired, having his house taken away from him – then re-establishing himself financially and now aiding other men in his situation? Or the State-sponsored feminist lobby that openly claims that men are abusive maniacs and even boys over a certain age are strictly verboten in their network of shelters?
Is there any hope?
The main hope for abused men in Serbia is definitely Dušan Trifunović’s organization, “Men’s Safety” which in December 2013 announced plans to open a new and bigger shelter in Mladenovcu[14], a 24/7 helpline and more resources to actively seek and help more victims.
Dušan Trifunović, as a former mayor, is the kind of person who can get things done – since in Eastern Europe, having the political connections to the right people is one of the only ways to be sure that you can do something without interference.
The activity of “Men’s Safety” is entirely supported by donations, and yet they have done more for the men from whom the Serbian State extracted taxes for so many years than anyone else.
Đorđe Mišić also expects his shelter to always be overcrowded in the coming years[15] and, whilst Dušan Trifunović still thinks that the State can’t ignore the problem indefinitely, Mišić is already resigned to the idea that the State doesn’t care, and says he’ll continue to rely on the surrounding community to support his shelter.
Meanwhile, the City Hall of Belgrade just announced that it wants to modify the law to allow them to give priority in employment to women in shelters who seek a job or city government[16]. In the words of the feminist lobby: “The entirety of Belgrade must be a safe house for all these women”
Welcome to Serbia!
[1] Jones, Ph.D.Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War, Published in: Transitions: The Journal of Men’s Perspectives, 21: 1-3 (2001)
[2]ša Vuković – Muška kuća, Published in: Kurir, 16.08.2009
[3] ibidem 2
[4]Žena me je tukla bejzbol palicom! (My wife beat me with a baseball bat!), Published in Alo!
[5] Gligorijević – Dame biju čime stignu, Published in Vesti, 23. 06. 2013
[6] ibidem 5
[7] kuća i za muškarce, Published in Vesti, 1.12.2013
[8] ibidem 7
[9] muška kuća, Published in Radio-televizija Srbije(RTS), 17.09.2009
[10] ibidem 7
[11] šale otvorio sigurnu kuću za muškarce, a oni masovno dolaze, Published in: Alo!
[12] ibidem 11
[13] Dragana Kocić – Stovarište odbačenih muževa: Sebi napravili sigurnu kuću, Published in: Press Online RS, 26.02.2012
[14] ibidem 7
[15] ibidem 13
[16] Živančević – Mali: Ženama iz Sigurne kuće prioritet u zapošljavanju u gradskim službama, Published in: Blic Online, 6.01.2014

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