Abusers should face full force of law


DISCPLINARY officers in the likes of Mary-Louise Avu must be commended for going the extra mile in attending to especially sensitive cases.
Mary-Louise spent two weeks sleeping in her office at the Waigani Police Station family and sexual violence unit (FSVU) guarding a 28-year-old mother of three, who had been accused of practising sorcery by her in-laws.
Yes, she swore an oath to upload the laws of PNG, but what Mary-Louise has done now portrays a positive aspect of PNG Police against the negatives of mainly abuse and brutality.
There have been complaints about the service and turn around time at the various FSVUs in the city in terms of attending to cases.
The deeds by Mary-Louise must be commended and encouraged to support the efforts of stakeholders, who are working round the clock on making this service readily available to especially women and girls.
A lot has been put into fighting the domestic and family violence epidemic in the country.
It must be supported by those tasked to assist.
Compared to previous years, support from all stakeholders including police has improved and this must continue.
There is still much room for improvement.
One common concern expressed has been on the support from police officers police stations or from those at the established FSVUs.
Based at police stations, the FSVU is there to provide dedicated police services for survivors of violence, and also support coordination between other local services.
The negative police culture among some officers who consider family and domestic violence to be “just a domestic” must be corrected.
Observations show that police are sometimes slow, or even fail to attend, to reports of domestic violence.
Fear of insensitive 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 referral systems.
Survivors require legal support to access justice, medical treatment, psychosocial support and often, especially in the case of intimate partner violence, assistance with finding emergency shelter and livelihood support to enable them to leave their homes.
A network of FSVUs, family support centres and NGOs are increasing across the country but there is much work to be done, and still many women that don’t have such support.
One thing for sure is that the legislations, rules and process on matters relating to gender-based violence have been amended and are user-friendly in terms of taking matters to courts.
The courts and police have improved on the system on reporting and protecting victims of gender-based violence.
While the law is there is protect and support survivors or victims, a clear pathway must be readily available.
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.
The challenge we see now is on the police and prosecutors to pursue investigations or criminal charges against people who commit family violence – even in cases of attempted murder, serious injury, or repeated rape rather than allow to resolve them through mediation and/or the payment of compensation.
Addressing domestic violence requires a coordinated community response that includes healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, non-profit organisations, schools that serve victims’ children and effective public policy.