Women being taught self defense during sessions which were organized by the Office of Gender Affairs in collaboration with the Family Support Network [FSN] and the Tortola Judo Club
Photo Credit: VIstandpoint
"...Understand that in some cases, if there is no intervention, death is the result of domestic violence. Let's make a change and bring peace to our homes one by one, and in so doing we will bring peace to our communities," Hon. Ronnie Skelton, Minister for Health and Social Development implored upon residents.
In his message to mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is being observed under the theme "Love Does Not Hurt", the Minister announced the upcoming implementation of the Domestic Violence Protocol.
"This is a standardised set of guidelines for first responders which include: all medical professionals, police, legal representatives and social workers, to ensure that all victims of domestic violence and their families receive the support and assistance they need to recover. During the course of this month, the Domestic Violence Act 2011 will be proclaimed and enacted," he stated.
Minister Skelton said as part of the public awareness campaign, the Office of Gender Affairs has been busy working to educate the communities on the New Domestic Violence Act 2011 so that persons fully understand the consequences of their actions.
"Together we rally and take a stand for healthy relationships and a society with reduced acts of violence in our communities."
Statistics from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force indicates that since 2009 there has been a gradual increase in the number of cases related to domestic violence. In 2009, the number of cases was 69; in 2010 the number was 84; in 2011 the number increased to 87. As of August 31, this year, the total number of domestic violence cases was 124.
The Minister is encouraging members of the community to support the various activities planned during this month.
"These are in collaboration with community partners such as Family Support Network, Delta Petroleum Corporation, Tortola Judo, BVI Bar Association and the Agape Total Life Centre...These various partnerships mark the start of a new journey as the Virgin Islands takes the appropriate steps to combat domestic violence in our society. I am encouraging everyone to support the activities planned..."
Minister Skelton urged persons to spread the word that "Love Does Not Hurt".
In an interview with BVI Platinum News earlier this month, Liana Cross, Acting Director of Family Support Network (FSN), said educating their clients that love should not hurt.
"To educate them, they cannot change the abuser, they may want the abuse to end, they may want to remain in the relationship because they love the person but love is not enough, love does not hurt, we have to train them to understand that...It's safer to get out of the situation," she stated.
Asked about the role FSN can play to educate alleged abused victims who are often time found asking the courts to drop the charges against their alleged perpetrator, Cross said the new Domestic Violence Act which will be proclaimed later this month will help to address that issue.
"The new domestic violence act that is going to be proclaimed later this month is actually going to help with the situation as well. Where if there is a case of domestic violence, physically especially, the police are obligated to arrest, charges pressed and go to court. So even if the victim says I don't want to press any charges even though the man gave her a black eye, they have no choice charges will be pressed because it will be recognized as a crime..."
She added said in relation to when it reaches to the court and the victim asks for the charge to be dropped, it will be done easily.
"The charges will not be dropped immediately like that anymore, but again the big part is education...We can only hope for the best," she said.