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Take all reports of domestic violence seriously – Stephenson

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Police officers do not have the authority to tell victims of domestic violence, male or female, to go home and “make up”.

On November 16, 2016, the Domestic Violence Act 2015 came into force and according to Minister of National Mobilization, Social Development, The Family, Persons with Disabilities and Youth Frederick Stephenson, that meant the police, by law, have to take all reports of domestic violence seriously.

“No police officer has the authority, if someone goes to a police station to report an act of domestic violence, to say to, whether a male or female, go home and make it up”, said Stephenson on Tuesday, while speaking at the conference room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Minister was addressing persons who had gathered to take part in a training workshop on domestic violence legislation, protocols and procedures.

The workshop was part of an international initiative dubbed, “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign.”

The 16-day initiative began on November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ended on December 10, Human Rights Day.

The Minister said that the 16 days of activities were being used to bring and heighten awareness of domestic violence and abuse in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and appealed to the police to take domestic violence seriously.

He said he has spoken to the Commissioner of Police (COP) Reynold Hadaway, so that the message that domestic violence is real can be passed on to police men and women.

“It is a crime and when someone comes to the police station to report, they must take all reports very seriously,” stressed Stephenson.

The social development minister, quoting parts of the Domestic Violence Act 2015, said it is the duty of police officers to inform victims of their rights when it is reasonably practicable and also hand the victim a printed copy of the information relating to their rights. He said that the act does not discriminate against female or male.

Minister Stephenson added also that upon a report of the breach of a protection order to a police officer by a person or victim, the police officer shall inform the person or the victim of the right to lodge a concurrent complaint against the respondent, if a criminal offence appears to have been committed against the person.

He said that no police officer should tell a man who goes to make a report of domestic violence that he is “soft”.

“The Ministry is dedicated to raising awareness of gender-based violence as a human rights issue, strengthening the local work around violence against women, providing a forum to develop and share strategies and to call on Government to account, respond, protect and prevent violence against women,” said Stephenson.

He said so far, the 16-day campaign has touched Vermont, Arnos Vale, Union Island, Mayreau and the Sion Government School.

Awareness sessions were also held at Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) and there is hope to visit the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).

“The campaign is designed to break the cycle of domestic violence, protect the victim, while rehabilitating the perpetrators,” noted Stephenson, who called on all responsible government agencies to work together on this issue.

“The Domestic Violence Act of 2015 No 7 must be implemented fully and consistently and the necessary systems must be put in place; that is, the available resources and staff and I know that the Ministry is working on that, so that the Act can achieve its desired impact on minimizing all forms of violence in our country,” said the Minister.

Stephenson appealed to the officers within his Ministry to take responsibility and work with persons who may come to them with reports, in order to get rid of the scourge of domestic violence.

“We must say enough is enough…we need to change the culture and the mindset of violence and silence and speak out, show the courage to say, it is not okay. If we are to end gender-based violence, we must stand together against it,” stressed the Minister.

He also urged, in an effort to curb the incidents of domestic violence, that men exercise restraint, while women who instigate violence with the use of their tongues should be careful of the choice of words that can cause retaliation.

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