In Campinas, the second largest municipality in the state of São Paulo, violence is a major problem. To deal with the specific issue of domestic and sexual violence, the municipal government created the Illuminate Network. It operates on the understanding that violence is a public health issue and not merely a problem for the police. Thus, the Network’s focus is on providing quality assistance for all victims of sexual and domestic violence within the city. By mediating among a number of different public agencies to provide both therapeutic and legal services to people who have suffered abuse, the Illuminate Network personalizes and simplifies interactions between citizens and public service providers.
The Illuminate Network integrates the efforts of community councils and health, education, and public safety agencies on a municipal and state level to counsel persons who have suffered sexual or domestic abuse. The Network has a dual role, both administrative and therapeutic: workers in the Network connect services from different municipal areas and institutions to provide humane care for victims of sexual and domestic violence. The Network is responsible for introducing victims of abuse to Brazil’s legal codes, assisting its clients through hospital examinations to record physical evidence, and supporting clients though the entire courtroom trial process. Recognizing that this legal help does not break the cycle of violence and victimization that often leads victims of crime to be abused again, the Network’s activists also provide counseling to clients.
Humanizing services allow victims to have immediate care throughout the process of reporting sexual or domestic abuse. The Network staff is trained to be attentive and supportive. Integral attention to victims includes carrying out the full medical protocol as defined by the Ministry of Health, which has significantly diminished the number of cases of unwanted pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis.
Implementation of the Illuminate Network began with initial federal funding for equipment, an office, and the retraining of staff drawn from public network and partner institutions to comply with the Network’s regulations. During this process, innovators created materials to educate municipal service providers on new policies for guiding abuse victims through the legal system. Now that the Network has been set up, activities are carried out within the budget of each of the responsible agencies, guaranteeing project sustainability and making it self-sufficient.
By thinking of violence as a multifaceted problem that cannot be reduced to a single field of study or specific service but instead must involve an integrated series of agencies, the Illuminate Network is able to provide holistic treatment and aid to victims of violence to ensure that they neither repeat the cycle of victimization, nor become violent in turn. The Network bases its activities on more humane and caring service provision, integrated attention for victims, and the creation of the SISNOV notification system.
To deal with compulsory notification, the SISNOV computerized system for reporting cases of violence has helped organize data in a systematic manner; this in turn has drawn attention to the number of cases of domestic and sexual violence, adding visibility to the problem. SISNOV integrates three programs for fighting violence in the city: “Breaking Silence,” supporting children and youth who are victims of domestic abuse; “Recreating Routes,” working with children and youth victims of sexual exploitation; and “Illuminate Campinas”, caring for victims of sexual and domestic violence of all ages.
Illuminate Campinas is an example of how government can have a crucial role in planning and implementing interdepartmental public policies to address complex issues such as sexual and domestic violence. Working within a network allows a broader reach for services and the involvement of a greater number of professionals in the struggle to prevent or remedy harm caused by violence. By linking already existing agencies, this initiative prevents a large financial outlay while providing innovative services, demonstrating that it can be more effective to maximize use of resources already in place than to establish entirely new public offices to meet the needs of the citizenry.
- By establishing a Network that covers a variety of health, educational, and safety services, the city of Campinas has created an efficient and caring support system for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
- An interlinked computer system allows for more efficient organization and use of data on domestic and sexual crime, providing an important tool for prevention of violence.
- The Illuminate System is a low-cost initiative, based for the most part on retraining personnel and reorganizing existing services. This network can be easily replicated by other municipalities.