Domestic violence is a big issue in Brazil: in 2020, one woman was killed each 9 hours. One of the public actions to fight it are the Women’s Specialized Police Stations, where women can seek specialized support to denounce violence and have access to protective measures. The project checked which are the Specialized Stations really working in Brazil, contacting each one of them, and created a map for women to have easy access to it. It led to the information that only 7% of cities in the country have at least one.
The project had great repercussions in national media, being mentioned in more than 30 publications, in journalistic sites and television, leading to more awareness of the population about the real importance of the police stations and also about the problem of the lack of their implementation.
About one month after the publication of the project, a Law Project was presented to the Congress by Congresswoman Elcione Barbalho requesting that women facing domestic violence can have support in the public defense in the cities where there are no Specialized Police Stations.
And the map has been helping women access the help they need, when it is available. More than 2,5 thousand women used it on our website. And it is also available in the app Penhas, which helps women facing domestic violence and has around 5,5 thousand users. And the database, which is open and available for free online, have been used by other initiative that help women in Brazil, like Mapa do Acolhimento.
Before the beginning of data collection, our data specialist organized the methodology and set up an excel table for the survey.
We started with public information requisition to all the 26 brazilian states governments, requesting the number of specialized police stations, their addresses, hours of functioning, and special measures taken during the pandemy.
Three reporters then called all the 429 stations indicated by the government, at least three times and in different periods of the day. The policers were asked a series of questions to confirm the information given by the State. All the calls were recorded and the data gathered set on the excel spreadsheet.
After all the calls, we analysed the data and compared it to other statistical data of the country, like numbers of population, number of cities and violence against women numbers.
The table was then transformed in a map, via wordpress and google maps, and the analysed data became the journalistic report and infography and panphlet with QR code to access the map which was distributed to be displayed in public areas.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Brazil is a continental country and it has no centralized organization of public information. There is nowhere women can find easily information about public services available and there was almost no data about Women’s specialized Police Stations. At the same time, domestic violence numbers are high and specialists, government and media are always saying to women to seek help. But where can they seek help? And is this help really available?
The purpose of the project was to answer those questions and make information accessible to everyone.
The verification process was complex and involved four journalists and one data specialist. We had to call all the 26 states, and then all the 429 stations, resulting in more than 1000 calls. Besides, the information sent by the governments was not accurate: many of the numbers and addresses were wrong – 29 of the stations that we were able to reach weren’t even specialized, but regular police stations.
The project united data journalism and service for the community, denouncing one problem of public service, which enriched public debate and led to the discussion of solutions, and at the same time, giving women tools to deal with their problem.
And at the end, we made all the information available for anyone who would like to use it: organizations that help women and journalists who cover the theme.
What can others learn from this project?
First, we believe that doubting of information offered by the State is one of the lessons learned. Government may say they offer some service for the citizens, but it is the hole of journalism to doubt and check it. Another lesson is that good data journalism is transparent and makes everything – methodology, processes and data gathered – available for anyone who would like to see and use it.
Finally, it is not enough to verify some data and transform it into numbers and analysis – it is important to remember that the data may be useful for the population in other forms. It’s important to tell that only 7% of cities have a Specialized Police Station, but it is also important to let people know what those cities are and all the information about the stations. And, if possible, transform it in something everyone, not only specialists, can understand and navigate, like a map.