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More women reporting abuse and violence against them

More women reporting abuse and violence against them

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According to senior officials within the police force and the Gender Affairs Division, an increasing number of women are coming forward to report incidences of domestic abuse and violence perpetrated against them, compared to previous years.

Polly Oliver, {{more}}co-ordinator of Gender Affairs, and ASP Jonathan Nichols, of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, both confirmed this occurrence in speaking with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday.

Oliver, whose department falls under the Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, the Family, Persons with Disabilities and Youth, said: “What we have been seeing is an increase in persons coming forward to make reports. Maybe it comes out because of heightened awareness, and people are now feeling confident that they can come forward and talk about their issues.

“Persons are becoming more aware of the issue of violence… the whole issue is on the forefront.”

Of the 246 cases of domestic violence reported during the period of January 2012 to October 2014, 181 of them were females and 61 were males. Of the 181 female cases, 30 occurred in 2012, 119 in 2013 and up to October 2014 there were 28 reported cases.

“What we do not have is an overall picture of the volume of crime that is committed, because we do have unreported cases that are not accounted for,” explained Oliver.

She further explained that a new data collection system was put in place this year which will help the Gender Affairs Division to “disaggregate” the data received, and will be readily available by 2016.

“The whole idea is that we can’t do anything anything about it if it is not reported,” asserted Oliver. “That informs policies and programmes… and it would help to put a stop to the whole issue of gender-based violence.”

ASP Nichols confirmed the increase in reporting of violence against women, citing the “efforts of the various stakeholders over the years” as being the fundamental cause.

According to police statistics, there were 54 reported cases of rape in 2009, 28 in 2010, 56 in 2011, 20 in 2012, and 30 in 2013. Nichols said that although he could not divulge exact figures for 2014 as yet, it is looking to exceed that of last year.

He urged women to continue to report acts of abuse/violence against them and to get out of abusive relationships, pointing out that to do otherwise could result in more serious injury and even death for themselves and their children.

Nichols, who leads the Public Relations Department, admitted that in the past, women may have been reticent to report these crimes to the police, because of the unfavourable responses of some officers; but assured that they have a “more professional response” in recent times.

“We have an initial responsibility in prosecuting offenders, and we try to do so as professionally as possible,” he countered.

Nichols said that the RSVGPF has a mandatory arrest policy where domestic violence and abuse is concerned – especially when there is “visible sign of injury.” He said that the number of police officers who are being put through sensitivity training is increasing, and has become a mandatory part of new officers’ six-month training.

He did, however, acknowledge that among the challenges that the police face on this issue are women who want to retract their statements after making an initial report.

“We are still obligated to prosecute,” he insisted. “When we… take the matter to court, and the victim wants to… offer no evidence, then that is for them to do. It is not for us to decide if to prosecute or not.”

Another challenge that he identified is that the message about speaking out against violence and abuse is not reaching those who are most in need – as evidenced by the women who are murdered by male perpetrators.

In 2009, three of the total murder victims were female. There were two in 2010, five in 2011, seven in 2012 and four in 2013. So far this year, there have been three female murder victims.

“Sometimes you don’t reach the persons you want to,” lamented Nichols. “But I must say that is changing, and I must commend all the agencies and department Ministries that are in the fight.”