We need better records of abuse cases

Editorial

IT is disappointing to know that there are no records kept at the Family and Sexual Violence Unit on the cases of family violence reported to its officers.
These units are based at police stations providing dedicated services to survivors of violence and coordinates with the service-providers.
Most if not all of these stations today have computerised systems and facilities which would not have made it too hard a task to record the cases reported to the unit.
It is vital that these cases be recorded to keep track of them for follow-up actions, and to monitor the trend of the types of violence perpetrated for future reference.
It needs to be done right away because the number of cases is increasing gradually.
Since the first unit was established in 2009 at Boroko in Port Moresby, 17 family and sexual violence units were set up around the country. More than 40,000 survivors had managed accessed services through these units.
According to Cardno, the company that manages the Australian Government’s law and justice programmes in PNG in 2014, 11,272 (mostly female) survivors of violence received services – up 20 per cent from 2013.
Strengthening links between all service providers, including the units in various locations, is a priority of the Justice Services and Stability for Development Programme.
The programme focuses on increasing survivors’ access to law and justice services, and strengthening referral pathways to medical, psychosocial, protection and other essential services.
The establishment of the family and sexual violence units seeks to address both these objectives.
An independent evaluation of the FSVUs was undertaken in 2015. Speaking during the launching then, Deputy Police Commissioner Raphael Haufolo said the establishment of units around the country had seen an increase in reporting to the various services available for victims, including the police.
However this week, The National was told that since its establishment in 2009, the unit had not been able to record information to give an accurate statistics of reported cases.
Information is vital if this unit is to function and expand because it is such information, statistics and other data from that unit that will make planning for the future easier to address family violence.
Despite the 2016 Human Rights Watch report saying rates of family and sexual violence are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, the good news is that the government had started the units alongside hospital-based family support centres, and initiated a process to develop a gender-based violence strategy.
The Family Protection Act has also been implemented. Penalties under that legislation carry a penalty of up to two years imprisonment or a K10,000 fine to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence.
The challenge is now on the police and prosecutors to pursue investigations or criminal charges against the perpetrators – even in cases of attempted murder, serious injury or repeated rape – rather than allow them to be resolved them through mediation and/or the payment of compensation.
But these are statistics that need to be recorded in the FSVU database. For any country to successfully navigate through the challenges and pitfalls of economic and social growth, it is essential for those in power to have at their disposal data and reliable figures to refer to when choosing the course the nation should take for the benefit of all its citizens.
These figures and trends should not just chart the changes that occur over a certain period of time but should be continually updated and made relevant.
With Prime Minister Peter O’Neill coming out with a very strong statement this week to condemn all acts of violence against women, the FSVU must be given all the support it needs so that those who work there can carry out their tasks promptly and without fear or favour.
The challenge has come from the office of the land. The tools must be provided so that the job can be effectively completed.

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