NEWS

Lock Down Violence

There has been a surge in domestic violence reports since Fiji recorded its first COVID-19 case. As Government took measures to lock down parts of the country and enforce a
16 Apr 2020 10:59
Lock Down Violence

There has been a surge in domestic violence reports since Fiji recorded its first COVID-19 case. As Government took measures to lock down parts of the country and enforce a nationwide curfew, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC) recorded 400 calls through their 1560 toll-free line.

Fiji is not alone though. Around the world, the trend is the same. Out of the 400 calls received, 160 are related to domestic violence.

FWCC Co-ordinator Shamima Ali said the 160 calls were from ongoing domestic violence cases. The situation for the callers has worsened.

“Social isolation is a very conducive environment for perpetrators to do their work because the woman is going to be locked down with him the whole day and the whole night and she can’t get away and we also have the curfew which will put pressure on her,” Ms Ali said.

“How do the women contact us as he is likely to be monitoring her phone?

“She is not allowed to use her phone, so she can’t talk to us. So some call us for other things and we can hear the fear in the tone of her voice. We ask the right questions and we immediately liaise with the Police to go and check that house.”

Ms Ali said there were also cases of men who are sending their spouse and children out into the danger zone, while keeping themselves safe from COVID-19.

“They are getting them to do the shopping and other errands. These are families that are already in domestic violence and being controlled by the men.”

Commissioner of Police Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho said officers were briefed and directed to treat all domestic violence related cases with a high sense of urgency.

This was in anticipation of the increase in the number of reports which were noted since the lockdown period began in the Lautoka and Suva areas.

“We are working with other stakeholders such as FWCC and the Ministry of Women to reinforce the message and officers are doing their part to ensure reports are attended to promptly and handled properly,” Brigadier General Qiliho said.

The Centre has also received calls related to attempted rape, child abuse, sexual abuse and legal issues like alleged Domestic Violence Restraining Order breaches and delayed maintenance payments.

Ms Ali is concerned that they have yet to see the pitch as people are still getting their heads around staying at home with no work and struggling to get food on the table.

The toll-free line also has callers inquiring about COVID-19 related issues. Some within the lockdown areas have called in seeking food rations. For these, Ms Ali liaised with Police and the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to assist.

Advice to abusive men:

“This is a time we need time for families and for men to recognise that. We advise the man to take this time to appreciate their wife.

“Only men can change the old dynamic around domestic violence.”
An appeal to service providers during curfew hours:

“There will be women who would be able to run away when their perpetrators are asleep. They should not be further victimised. Please do a referral immediately if you find a woman or a child running away from violence,” Ms Ali said.
For women and children facing abuse at home:

Call the toll-free line 1560. Get help. Signal to your neighbour so they can alert authorities

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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