Until 2003 there were no statistics about the number of women killed by gender violence in Spain. No official figures exist before that date. The victims were invisible. Since then, though, the statistics have been startling: 993 women have died in 16 years in Spain, more than those killed by ETA terrorists. That's why the new director of the Instituto Andaluz de la Mujer, Andalusian institute for women (IAM), Mercedes Sánchez Vico, calls this "State terrorism", and things don't seem to be getting any better. The IAM is part of the Junta regional government.
In the first three months of this year, the IAM's shelter and assistance service has helped 254 women who were suffering from gender violence, which is an increase of 28 per cent compared with the same period last year.
In Malaga province there were 52 cases between January and March, including women and their young children, compared with 45 in the first three months of 2018. That is an increase of 13.4 per cent.
"We cannot close our eyes to what is happening," says Mercedes Sánchez Vico. She says there is a need to educate people equally to "put an end to this awful situation, which is getting worse despite everything that has been done so far".
The IAM offers legal, psychological, social and educational advice to victims of gender violence at its emergency centres, shelters and apartments run by the Agise company, which operate 24 hours a day all year round.
If under-18s are included in the figures, the number of people assisted in Andalucía so far this year is 489, which is 21 per cent higher than in 2018. These are women, sometimes accompanied by their children, "whose lives are in danger because of their situations and they need to escape," explains Mercedes, and she says that although the victims are "totally destroyed when they arrive, they are given help to recover their independence, if they have lost it, and to become survivors instead of victims".
Malaga is the third province in Andalucía in terms of assistance being requested so far this year. The IAM service has helped 41 women in Almeria, 54 in Cadiz, 61 in Cordoba, 83 in Granada, 31 in Huelva, 66 in Jaén, 52 in Malaga and 101 in Seville.
These figures are worrying for the Andalusian government, which has announced an increase in funding to combat gender violence. The IAM will be spending two million euros, an increase of 700,000, on assistance for non-profit-making organisations which help women at risk, and also injecting 500,000 euros into associations which present projects to prevent or fight against gender violence, and 1.5 million euros for organisations which work "to achieve true equality".
The assistance and shelter service has 78 apartments with 231 bedrooms and 471 beds in total, and this has enabled it to handle the increased number of cases "with no problem".
This facility, which tries to re-establish the rights of women who have suffered gender violence, provides three levels of assistance: emergency centres, shelters and apartments.
Special phone number
The IAM coordinates its services through the provincial women's centres and the phone number 900 200 999, which victims of gender violence and their children can ring anonymously and in full confidentiality.
The emergency centres provide protection for women who have suffered or are at risk of domestic violence and their children, guaranteeing them immediate shelter and emergency assistance at any time of day or night. The specialist staff evaluate each case individually and take the action considered most appropriate.
The shelters are residential centres which provide full social, psychological and legal assistance the women need in order to recover from the violence to which they have been subjected. The apartments are for use by families.