Crime Victims – Austria

1. Before Reporting to the Police
2. Making a Police Statement
3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings
4. Court Proceedings
5. After the Verdict

1. Before Reporting to the Police

A. Consult a Counsel!

If a sex worker becomes the victim of violence or trafficking in women, she should contact an advisory centre immediately.
She should always seek advice before going to the police. Advisory centres offer confidential advice for migrant prostitutes.
Advisory centres will not forward information regarding the woman, such as her name and address, to the police or aliens authorities. The advice is therefore confidential.

B. Confidential Legal Advice

Advisory centres can also arrange contact with specialist lawyers.

C. Confidential Medical Examination

Advisory centres  have addresses of trustworthy doctors to whom the woman can go for a confidential medical examination and treatment, so that injuries and traces of the deed may be documented. This means that evidence of the deed is recorded and the woman has time to think about whether or not she wishes to report the crime.
Please note:
If the woman has no medical insurance, she must pay for this examination herself. In some cases it is possible to arrange examinations free of charge.

D. Police and Justice Prejudices against Prostitutes

Violent and sexual crimes against sex workers may still sometimes be inadequately investigated because of prejudices on the part of police, public prosecutors and judges. However, all large towns have specialist police departments for the examination of victims of sexual crimes. In addition, the woman may always say that she would rather speak with a female officer.

E. Trafficking in Women

1. Trafficking in Women is….
  • when a woman is actively encouraged — through false promises regarding work possibilities and earnings — to come to Austria, regardless of whether a job in another field was promised her or whether she was willing to work in prostitution;
  • when identity papers or earnings are taken away from her;
  • when a woman is forced into prostitution or into giving sexual services;
  • when a woman is blackmailed, threatened, humiliated, beaten, raped or imprisoned.
  • when a woman must work under conditions of slavery.In the above instances, it is irrelevant whether the woman previously worked as a sex worker or whether she was willing to work as a sex worker because/while she was misinformed about work conditions and earnings.

The names of the criminal offences in Austrian Law are
Trafficking in Human Beings (§ 104a Criminal Code/
“Strafgesetzbuch”) and Trafficking in Prostitutes (§ 217 Criminal Code/ “Strafgesetzbuch”).

Since 1 May 2004 these new laws now include all forms of trafficking. According to the UN-Protocol victims of trafficking in the household or other fields of work are now also recognized as victims of trafficking.

2. Special Rights for Victims of Trafficking

Victims of trafficking in women have access to special support services. Victims are accommodated in a safe place and may be granted a temporary residence permit. However, practice varies according to the region and depends on the individual case; again, advisory centres can give relevant information. For details of special offers for, and the rights of victims of trafficking in women, see the corresponding paragraphs below.

2. Making a Police Statement

The police require the woman to make a statement in the police station as victim/witness — for instance against perpetrators of trafficking in women or against persons who have brought her into the country or to whom she has had to give part of her earnings.
Please note:
If the woman is suspected of having committed a crime in another matter (e.g. theft, fraud), she is an accused party and has different rights to when merely a witness! (See Prosecution)

A. Right to Remain Silent

A witness is not obliged to speak when questioned by the police. Even if she does speak, she is entitled to remain silent about anything which incriminates her or a member of her family.

B. Female Officer

If the woman wishes to make a statement as witness, she may ask to be questioned by a female officer; however, she is not legally entitled to this service.

C. Translator

She is entitled to the services of a translator in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the translator, she should tell the police. However, she is not legally entitled to another translator.

D. Lawyer

As a witness she is not entitled to her lawyer’s presence at questioning. The lawyer may be present if granted police permission.
Hint: Memorise a lawyer’s telephone number or the number of an advisory centre!

E. Trusted Person

She may generally ask for the presence of a trusted person (e.g. a female friend or advisor) at questioning.

F. No Custody

As witness, the woman may not be held in police custody. However, she may be detained if she is also accused of illegal residence/employment or of another offence. (See Prosecution).

G. Special Rights for Trafficked Women


If the woman’s statement or other evidence leads the police to believe that she may have been a victim of trafficking in women (Definition)she has special rights.

1. No Consideration Period

In Austria the woman is not entitled to a consideration period enabling her to think about whether to give evidence as witness.

After the police have taken an initial statement, the authority will decide whether the woman will be put in contact with the LEFÖ/IBF, and will also decide whether the woman will be given the right to remain in Austria. If a criminal case is taken, the vicitim is entitled to receive a limited residence permit for the duration of the legal proceedings. In a small number of cases, after intervention by LEFÖ/IBF, other women were granted a limited residence permit where individual humanitarian reasons applied.

2. Right to residence

If the woman decides to give evidence, she may be granted a limited residence permit due to humanitarian reasons at least until the time when she gives evidence as witness. However, the decision to grant this permit lies at the authorities’ discretion. Often women are not granted a residence permit: their deportation is merely postponed.
If the woman decides against giving evidence, she usually has to leave the country.
Practice varies according to region and depends on individual circumstances. Advisory centres can give information on this.

3. Advice and Support

The woman is entitled to obtain advice and support from the victim protection centre Lefö/IBF (Useful Addresses). The woman should insist that police establish contact to this organisation.

a) Accommodation and Help

Lefö/IBF offers her safe, staffed accommodation, socio-psychological and psychological care, legal advice and support in dealing with authorities and in procuring documents, help with returning to the respective home country, German language courses, accompaniment to questionings in trusted person capacity, and legal representation (especially in cases of participation with civil party status).

b) Legal Advice

Lefö/IBF can put the woman in touch, free of chargewith a (recommended trustworthy) lawyer, who will advise her of her rights in order to help her decide whether or not to give evidence as witness.

3. Initiation of Legal Proceedings

After questioning the woman and other witnesses, the police decides whether to hand over the information to the public prosecution and public prosecution decide whether to initiate legal proceedings against the perpetrator(s). During these proceedings, police and public prosecution gather evidence against the perpetrator. During proceedings, a woman who is the victim of a crime may be questioned again as victim/witness. At the end of legal proceedings the public prosecutor decides whether to accuse the perpetrator before a criminal court (e.g. of trafficking in human beings, rape or bodily injury).

A. Duration of Legal Proceedings

Sometimes a long time passes between the woman’s first hearing as witness, the beginning of legal proceedings and her statement as witness. This is because proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar offences are often large-scale processes involving many accused parties.
For this reason, legal proceedings can last from six months to a full year or even more.

B. Trafficked Women

1. Right to residence

If the woman decides to give evidence in court as witness against the perpetrator, she may, at the authorities’ discretion, be granted a limited residence permit due to humanitarian reasons, or her deportation be postponed. If the woman already has a residence permit for other reasons (e.g. marriage), she does not, of course, require a residence permit as witness.
If the woman is neither granted a residence permit nor possesses one for other reasons, she must leave the country within the time specified by the aliens authorities (“Fremdenbehörde), despite having made a police statement as witness.

2. Living Conditions
a) Care Programmes at Advisory Centres

Victims of trafficking in women are accepted into a care programme run by the organisation LEFÖ/IBF in Vienna (see Useful Addresses). This programme offers safe accommodation, board, advice in the woman’s mother tongue, socio-psychological care, German language courses and support in dealing with authorities and visiting the doctor. Cultural mediators at the advisory centres are, like the victims, from many different countries.

b) Police Protection Schemes

The police offer a protection scheme for extremely endangered witnesses. In practice, victims of trafficking in women are not admitted into this.

c) Social Benefits

Women in the care programme receive accommodation, board, advice and care. They are not entitled to any additional social security benefits.
Only if they have a residence permit due to humanitarian reasons can they receive social benefits (“Grundversorgung”).

d) Work

The women may not work while waiting for the trial to begin. Neither are there any further professional education offers.
If the authorities realise that the woman is working nevertheless (whether as a sex worker or in another capacity), aliens authorities may withdraw her right to residence and the woman be obliged to leave the country.

Please note:
Women who have a residence permit due to humanitarian reasons may receive a work permit (“Beschäftigungsbewilligung”) if they find an employer willing to employ them.
3. Decision to Appear as Witness or Civil Party

Before court proceedings open, the woman should decide whether she wishes to give evidence only as witness, or whether to appear as the criminally injured party as civil party.

a) Role as Witness

1. Limited to the Giving of Evidence as Witness
As witness, the woman is invited only to her hearing as witness. She may neither participate in earlier appointments, nor may she obtain information regarding the contents of files. She is not informed about the course of proceedings, nor is she able to influence these.

2. Lawyer
The witness may not be accompanied to her hearing as witness by her lawyer.

b) Rights as Civil Party

As civil party, the woman in question has considerably more rights during proceedings than if she is merely a witness:

1. Right to View Documentation
Civil parties are entitled to view documentation during the enquiry and main proceedings. Thus, the woman learns early on what direction court proceedings will take, e.g. how many accused parties there are, whether further witnesses are to give evidence or whether she will be chief witness, what evidence the public prosecution has gathered and whether the perpetrator will be kept in prison until the main trial.

2. Participation in All Appointments
The lawyer and — if she wishes it — the woman herself are entitled to participate in all court appointments. This is another opportunity for the woman to prepare for her statement as witness.

3. Lawyer’s Rights of Procedure
The woman’s lawyer files her own petitions during proceedings and is entitled to sum up the case before the court. In this way she ensures that the court and public prosecution take into consideration the woman’s interests and rights, for instance by insisting that damages and compensation claims be met. However, civil parties may not lodge appeals against the verdict.

4. Lawyer’s Fees
No state funds are available for the payment of lawyer’s fees.
The victim protection centre Lefö/IBF covers lawyer’s fees for women who are in its care.

c) Conditions for Civil Party Status

Either the woman or her lawyer must apply for civil party status before the commencement of (main) court proceedings.

4. Court Proceedings

In court, the case is considered afresh, that is, independently of previous enquiries by police and public prosecution. When criminal proceedings are opened, the female crime victim is invited to give her evidence as victim/witness. At the end of proceedings the court issues a verdict as to whether the perpetrator(s) is/are guilty or not.

A. Duration of Court Proceedings

Proceedings relating to trafficking in human beings and similar offences are often long-winded, large-scale processes. Many details are dealt with and many accused parties prosecuted all at once.  For this reason, main court proceedings — that is, the period between the first court appointment and the verdict — generally last(s) about half a year. If an appeal is lodged against the verdict, the final decision may even be delayed by several years.

B. Videotaped Contradictory Questioning

Before the beginning of main proceedings, the victim/witness is questioned by the examining judge (videotaped contradictory questioning). The examining judge puts questions to the woman regarding her statement. The perpetrator’s lawyers and the perpetrator sit in the room next door and watch the questioning on video, and, after the examination, pose questions which the examining judge transmits. The examining judge asks the woman whether she wants to come to the main court hearing. In many cases the woman will also be told that she is not needed for further proceedings. This will often depend on the length and intensity of this questioning.

C. Procedure When a Witness Gives Evidence Before Court

The following explanations apply to the statement made by the woman in question before court during the main proceedings, whether as witness only or additionally as civil party.
1. Duration

The statement is given either in the course of one day or of several days. Occasionally the witness may also be asked to attend a second time, later in the proceedings, because new questions concerning her have arisen.

2. Questions

Questions are put to the witness by, in order, the judges, the public prosecution, the defence and under certain circumstances her own lawyer.

3. Obligation to Testify

The witness must answer questions truthfully and omit nothing; otherwise she risks criminal action against her on grounds of false testimony. However, she may remain silent on anything which incriminates her or her family.

4. Lawyer

When giving evidence, the witness may be accompanied by her lawyer only if she is also appearing as civil party.

5. Translator

The witness is entitled to the services of a translator in her own language. If she feels unable to trust the translator, she can refuse her/him on grounds of interest. The court then decides whether to provide another translator.

C. Protection of the Witness

1. Right to Police Protection

The woman may be accompanied and protected by the police during the entire proceedings, and particularly during her statement as witness. However, she is not legally entitled to this protection. The police decides to what extent it considers the woman endangered. In order to obtain the best possible protection, the woman should inform her lawyer and the police of threats made by the perpetrator and others.

2. Right to Give Evidence in a Non-Public Hearing

The public can be excluded by the judge from proceedings if personal or intimate questions are to be put to the witness.

3. Right to Give Evidence Without the Presence of the Accused

The accused party is excluded if the witness is afraid or has other reasons for not giving evidence in his presence.

4. Ban on Soliciting Certain Evidence

In cases of rape it is not permissible to ask the victim questions regarding her (sexual) history. Other inadmissible questions are those which endanger the witness (e.g. regarding her address) or which are unrelated to the matter.

5. Victim Support Centre

This centre supports crime victims before court.

D. Compensation for the Victim

1. From the Perpetrator
a) During Criminal Proceedings

During criminal proceedings, the woman in question may already make damages and compensation claims as civil party against the perpetrator through her lawyer. However, criminal courts may pass these claims on to a civil court. In practice this often happens.

b) During Civil Proceedings

Where the above happens, the woman must make her claims parallel to the criminal proceedings or afterwards before the civil court. However, if she makes them before the end of criminal proceedings she risks failure because of the difficulty of proving her case. After the end of criminal proceedings the woman mostly has to leave the country; in this case her only chance is to appoint a lawyer to file the complaint for her. In theory, the woman may, after the closure of criminal proceedings, obtain a limited residence permit in order to pursue claims against the perpetrator.

2. From the State

The woman in question may not make any compensation claims against the state, even if she does not obtain any compensation from the perpetrator.

E. Trafficked Women

Procedure concerning women’s right to residence, their living conditions and rights during court proceedings are the same as those detailed above under Initiation of Legal Proceedings.

5. After the Verdict

A. Right to Residence

If the woman does not hold the right to residence independently of the trial, there are few possibilities for her to remain in Austria after the conclusion of the trial.
1. Limited Residence Permit for Pursuit of Claims Against the Perpetrator

A woman may obtain a limited residence permit (postponement of deportation) after criminal proceedings in order to pursue claims against the perpetrator.

2. Right to Residence Due to Danger in Own Country

Where there is concrete danger that, in her own country, the woman’s life, health or freedom will be endangered by the perpetrator (or by others), she may obtain a residence permit for humanitarian reasons. However, authorities have a great deal of leeway in making this decision, and to date only very few women have been granted this residence permit.

3. Right to Residence on Humanitarian Grounds

In theory it has, since 1997, been possible for trafficked women to obtain a limited “residence permit on humanitarian grounds”. However, authorities have a great deal of leeway in making this decision, and to date only very few women have been granted this residence permit.

4. Right to Residence for Other Reasons

Independently of her role as witness, the woman may obtain the right to residence for other reasons, e.g. marriage or asylum (compare Migration).

B. Support in Leaving the Country

1. Travel Costs

If the woman has no means of her own, the costs of homeward travel and the procuring of documents are covered by the LEFÖ/IBF advisory centre care programme.

2. Help With Setting Up

Generally, no means are available to help the woman set up in her own country.

3. Contacts

Advisory centres in Austria help clients organise their homeward travel and supply contact information for support in the home country.

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