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SAFE SPACE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS

by Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc
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SAFE SPACE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
SAFE SPACE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
SAFE SPACE FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS
Packaging food parcels bought with grant from GG
Packaging food parcels bought with grant from GG
While our mandate is to advocate and provide support services for victims of gender based violence and lack of access to justice; COVID-19 arrived with challenges that was unforseen and unplanned which required us to diviate from our scheduled programs to provide basic food support to our clients:  
Over the last 4 months we have had to:
  • Seek donations to procure basic food items and packed 1142  food packages and the same quantity of personal hygiene packs for our clients who had lost their jobs and in some instances their homes;
  • Set up remote counseling via IPAD to safe houses
  • Obtained a special pass from the NATIONAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY (NEMO) to distribute food and hygiene pack and also respond to GBV incidents during State of Emergency and Curfew;
  • Suspended group Counseling; 
  • Suspended physical home visits and instead done face time just to reassure clients;
  • Suspended the completion of our office space and counseling room; 
  • Received a Grant from GlobalGiving which allowed us to provide 320 food and hygiene packs to our clients. 

COVID-19 has escalated the many challenges of GBV victims as the country shut down, GBV spiked and abusers used this time to escalate abuse, with school being closed and over 30K students at home so did sexual abuse. 

The greatest challenge now is for food, rent and utilities with internet connection being key as most marginalized homes has no water, electricity, internet connection or digital devices for children to participate in E-Learning. 

Disparties between the middle and upper class versus the poor and marginalized are more visible as the hospitality industry, small businesses, and self employed enterprise shut down and thereby shutting down paycheck to paycheck jobs leaving many unable to support basic needs. 

“Safety planning is still our number one priority and we have integrated new applications on smartphones that alerts 6 people either via text, call or alert to signal the person needs help. We have created safe people and places to go for individuals who are still in the abusive home and as always, each situation is unique so all plans are tailored to the specific case

And above all else we continue to practice safety to avoid the spread of the corona virus. 

We thank you for your support thus far and continue to ask for your donations to assist those who are unable to provide food and E-learning support for their children. 

Volunteers packing food parcels
Volunteers packing food parcels
Volunteers measuring non perishable food.
Volunteers measuring non perishable food.
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Saint Lucia is a Tourism destination and the COVID-19 has had a very devastating effect on the tourism industry, but most importantly the thousands of women who work at the various resorts no longer have independent livelihoods as the resorts are closing down as travel restrictions take effect in Canada, USA, Europe, etc.

The Prime Minister’s address to the Nation did not include any relief or arrangement for gender based violence victims, special needs children or marginalized groups, therefore, women and children who do not have disposable income are left to fend for themselves in this crisis.

As women lose their jobs their partners threatens to throw them out onto the street if they cannot find a job to contribute to the bills, for women who are experiencing domestic violence, mandatory lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) have trapped them in their homes with their abusers, isolated from the people and the resources that could help them.

A growing number of callers to our organization’s line say that their abusers are using COVID-19 as a means of further isolating them from their friends and family, threatening to throw their victims out on the street and some are withholding financial resources and medical assistance.

The very way we are protecting people from the virus is impacting victims of domestic violence, we absolutely support the need to follow these measures of social distancing and isolation, we also recognize that it provides an opportunity for abusers to unleash more violence on their victims.

One out of three women in the world experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization, making it “the most widespread but among the least reported human rights abuses.” But during times of crisis—the risk of gender-based-violence escalates.

Providing nonperishable foods, disposable diapers, wipes and medication to our clients is our most important concern at this time while continuing to provide support services via alternative medium to ensure their safety.

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When it is a viable option, it is best for victims to do what they can to escape their abusers. However, this is not the case in all situations. Abusers repeatedly go to extremes to prevent the victim from leaving. In fact, stories from our clients suggests leaving an abuser or threatening to leave an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence. Out of seven domestic homicides in 2016/17 families suggests that victims were planning to leave the relationship, however they were also afraid there was no safe space to go and their abuser may find them. 

Victim's reasons for staying with their abusers are based on the reality that their abuser will follow through with the threats they have used to keep them trapped: threats such as  - the abuser will hurt or kill them, they will hurt or kill the kids, they will win custody of the children, they will ruin their victim financially -- the list goes on. The victim in violent relationships knows their abuser best and fully knows the extent to which they will go to make sure they have and can maintain control over the victim. The victim literally may not be able to safely escape or protect those they love.

In 2018 we worked with forty two (42) domestic violence and seventy one (71) in 2019, this is what we learnt from our interviews. 

  • The fear that the abuser's actions will become more violent and may become lethal if the victim attempts to leave.
  • Unsupportive family and friends networks 
  • Knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting and reduced financial circumstances
  • The victim feeling that the relationship is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear.
  • The victim's lack of knowledge of or access to safety and support
  • Fear of losing custody of any children if they leave or divorce their abuser or fear the abuser will hurt, or even kill, their children
  • Lack of means to support themselves and/or their children financially or lack of access to cash, bank accounts, or assets
  • Lack of having somewhere to go (e.g. no friends or family to help, no money for travel as the country is small and one can easily be found,
  • The women's support shelter was full or limited by length of stay
  • Fear that homelessness may be their only option if they leave
  • Belief that two parent households are better for children, despite abuse
  • Inconsistency of abuse; during non-violent phases, the abuser may fulfill the victim's dream of romantic love. The victim may also rationalize the abuser is basically good until something bad happens and they have to "let off steam." 

In 2020 we need your support to expand our shelter program and to ensure every victim has a place to go. 

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While not every victim of domestic violence is female, women constitute the majority, we have not yet encountered a single man since we started working with victims of domestic violence in February 2012. We work closely with  many survivors of domestic and women in particular, stay in dangerous relationships for many reasons. Many times, a chief reason is the lack of an accessible and welcoming women support shelter, woman in an abusive relationship may not feel she has anywhere else to go. Extended family may not be near or welcoming. An inability to be self-supporting can leave many feeling they are “stuck” in their situation.

A crisis shelter gives women in imminent danger someplace safe and secure to escape from harm. Friends and family may be non-existent or too accessible to the abusing partner. A crisis shelter offers a roof, meals and a location where the abuser cannot reach them.

In most cases, the crisis shelter offers much more – like a consistent, safe place to recoup from the strain of real and pending danger – not just for themselves, but for their children also. It also offers them an environment to encourage their potential, rather than crush their self-image. The shelter offers space to breathe and re-imagine life alongside those who have reached this hope for themselves. Hope for a better future can be born, and this includes hope for new opportunities for children who have witnessed domestic abuse or experienced homelessness.

Many times, it takes more than 60 or 90 days to start rebuilding a life, so we also working to offer longer-term housing  so women can access other services which empower her to work toward enhanced career opportunities, including education and resources toward her own permanent residence.

Because our team works on a daily basis with those who face abuse, we have an authoritative voice when it comes to public policy. Victims may lack confidence in themselves or ‘the system’ but we can speak confidently and assuredly on their behalf. In this way, crisis we benefit not only those in immediate danger, but can help to protect others in the community before they are victimized. For all these reasons, and more, we hope you can see why it’s so important to support a safe space for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. 

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Saint Lucia has one domestic violence shelter in the north of the island, therefore, every domestic violence victims  must be transportated to this one shelter, most instances the shelter is inundated because our domestic violence  situation is at a critical state with no obvious support for victims including the absence of a domestic violence act. 

Our initial mandate was to advocate for and on behalf of women and children who are victims of violence and lack of access to swift justice. Our work is hard and tedious because entrenched cultures make change difficult, therefore it is necessary to be persistent in our efforts to raise awareness and educate everyone on the detrimental effects of gender base violence on us as individuals, on homes, families and the country. Coupled with these responsibilities we are hosting women who cannot go to the shelter or stay at their own homes because of the threat of harm by intimate partners and partners who threaten the safety and security of their children 

For the Period 2013/15 the Division of Human Services reported eight hundred and twelve cases (812) cases of child abuse, categorized as physical abuse, verbal/psychological abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment/neglect;

For the period 2013 to 2014 & 2016 the Family Court reported a total of one thousand and thirty (1039) nine cases of domestic violence, figures for 2015 were not available;

For the period 2015 the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force recorded 112 cases of sexual assault/rape and 52 cases of domestic violence, in 2016 the department recorded 250 cases of this total 36 were domestic violence and 214 were sexual assault and rape;

For the period 2013/16 the Women Support Shelter recorded a total of 1076 domestic violence crisis calls, there was a marked increase in 2016 reflecting a total of 435 crisis calls.  

These statistics show a startling and persistent increase in gender based violence, we believe public education and awareness, increased resources (human, training and capacity building) to social services agencies is critical to minimize the high rate of gender based violence, critical legislation to provide a more equitable environment and minimize legal victimization of women and children have been pending for  very, very long.

We continue to struggle for resources to assist victims while being thankful for those who support our work and vision.

A SAFE SPACE FOR VICTIMS TO BE DEBRIEFED, SHELTERED AND SUPPORTED IS CRITICAL FOR EVERYONE. 

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Organization Information

Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc

Location: GROS ISLET - Saint Lucia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @ourvoiceslu
Project Leader:
Catherine Sealys
President
GROS ISLET, Saint Lucia
$2,491 raised of $15,720 goal
 
60 donations
$13,229 to go
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