Support for victims of violence crucial

Editorial

THE report highlighting the need to have medical and psychological support for women and children who are victims of violence will surely raise eyebrows.
The report – Independent formative evaluation of family support centres in Papua New Guinea June 2016 – said many women and children lack access to adequate intervention services which can help them recover from the emotional and psychological trauma of violence.
The report said that to provide comprehensive medical, legal aid and psychosocial support for survivors of violence, the government, through the Department of Health and with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), established Family Support Centres (FSC) in 2004.
The primary purpose of the FSC was to respond to the high rates of abuse and violence against women and children by providing medical, psychosocial and legal support.
FSC is also meant to strengthen a community’s capacity to prevent and respond to violence against women and children through advocacy.
Addressing domestic violence requires a coordinated community response that includes healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, nonprofit organisations, schools which serve victims’ children, and effective public policy.
Survivors require legal support to access justice and medical facilities, psycho-social support and – especially in the case of partner violence – assistance with finding emergency shelter and livelihood support to enable them to leave their homes
FSCs were proposed as a mechanism to deliver services using comprehensive care protocols under a one-stop-shop model, based on the premise that victims of violence usually seek health assistance as a first priority.
Even if they access medical reports from health workers with the intent to report an incident to police, many opt not to go to the police station.
Fear of unsympathetic responses from police, fear of being followed to a police station by their attacker or attacker’s family, lack of detailed information about their legal rights or legal processes, shame at having been assaulted, and fear of possible retaliatory consequences from the accused party or his (or her) family all contribute to client attrition from the referral systems.
Children living with domestic violence suffer emotional and psychological trauma from the impact of living in a household that is dominated by tension and fear.
These children will see their mother threatened, demeaned or physically or sexually assaulted.
They will overhear conflict and violence and see the aftermath of the violence such as their mother’s injuries and her traumatic response to the violence.
Children also may be used and manipulated by the abuser to hurt their mother.
A network of FSVUs, family support centres and NGOs are increasing across PNG, but there is much work to be done, and still many women who don’t have such support.
An important document women and children need is medical evidence which is crucial in attaining criminal convictions for family and sexual violence-related cases.
Hence, medical professionals play an important role in attaining information when treating survivors of FSV and recording the findings that can be used in court to support a conviction
While the law is there to protect and support survivors or victims, a clear pathway to medical and psychological help must be readily available.
To serve the victims of domestic violence, organisations must provide two basic types of services: services to address physical and emotional trauma and services to reduce violence by enabling women to leave an abusive relationship.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be exceedingly difficult – and inadequate services to help women plan for and cope after leaving makes it even more difficult.
Communities play a vital role in enabling women to escape violence by offering safe housing, childcare, employment, and food since victims may not have independent incomes or alternative housing options.
Expert consensus suggests that empowerment is the most effective approach to providing necessary services to victims.

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