COVID-19 has led to a surge in domestic violence, leaving victims and their children struggling to find access to food, safe housing, and transportation, according to a new study by Rutgers University. The study showed that some victims were met with various challenges and barriers, including a lack of food, shelter, transportation, childcare, and opportunities for employment.
These challenges have imposed pressure upon persons to have no choice but to continue to live in communities near their abusive partners. Others have been forced to move back in with their abusers after finding themselves having to choose between being abused or homeless.
While this study focused on the US, the findings are applicable globally and in many cases, such as Guyana, for example, the situation is far worse, says The Caribbean Voice (TCV).
The advocacy group said that domestic violence must be tackled holistically and realistically. It made reference to a recent announcement where victims of domestic violence will be given access to lowcost housing. While this is admirable, the group said, it does not provide an adequate response to the issue at hand.
“To date Guyana has not been able to afford one safe house or shelter for Domestic Violence victims but now they are going to build homes for the thousands who are victimized annually? And how will these victims pay for the homes, especially given that our own experience on the ground reveals that the vast majority cannot earn that kind of money even if they work two or more jobs,” the TCV said.
The group is also questioning the care plan that will be put in place through the collaboration.
“Is that care plan premised on a multi agency/stakeholder approach? For example are the police, regional administrations, NGOs, CSOs involved? Are there any plans to bring back and expand the gatekeepers’ program to embrace communities across Guyana? Is this plan comprehensive enough to address the many needs of domestic violence victims and their children? Is a safety- first-and-always mechanism built into the plan?” The TCV queried.
Further, it stated that realism should be the basis for making such plans, which should also be systematic and concerted.
The TCV said that systems should be in place to ensure that each of the 10 regions first have safehouses and shelters along with an ambulance each, and rapid response transportation to move victims and their children to safety as quickly as possible. The TCV opined that these systems will cater for all domestic violence victims as opposed to the handful who will benefit from the low-cost housing initiative. Also, given the large number of domestic violence cases each year, it will be “impossible” to build so many homes.
“During this pandemic,domestic violence victims have been falling through the cracks, and the little that TCV and other stakeholders have been able to do has been but a drop in the ocean,” the group said.
It noted that now is the time for “ad hoc, piecemeal plans” to give way to holistic, viable and national efforts to address domestic violence across the nation. This will allow efforts from stakeholders and all platforms to be embraced and harnessed.
To this end, the TCV is strongly advocating for the following:
– Effecting orders of protection, which must have teeth to protect victims;
– the sensitizing of all police officers and building of Domestic Violence units in every region;
– launching a program to develop safety planning awareness;
– establishing gatekeepers in every community to help victims implement their safety plans before its too late;
– counseling for victims and their children by clinically trained and experienced counselors, not quacks or individuals who are given some quick courses over a few days, weeks or months;
– training/retraining of Domestic Voilence victims to provide them with marketable skills and a mechanism to ensure job placements;
– viable steps to address toxic masculinity and the factors that give rise to abuse; and
– a campaign to address dysfunctional relationships.