A&B needs safe spaces for abuse victims

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Two participants in the recently held “Love Shouldn’t Hurt” forum agree there is an urgent need for safe houses for survivors of domestic and gender based violence.
Acting Executive Director of the Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA), Farmala Jacobs said this will take a strategic approach and the initial focus will be on setting up a response centre for the affected individuals for a short-term period.
“I must tell you that would require a lot of research and work that we are committed to doing but in the first phase we’re working on setting up that response centre,” Jacobs said.
She said in the absence of the response centre, the DoGA uses a number of other systems to address the needs of victims.
“If someone comes to the directorate for emergency accommodations, we have a strategy whereby there are a number of persons who might volunteer their homes or holding place for those persons for a very short period and we would not disclose where those places are,” she said.
Jacobs was speaking at the event organised by the DoGA in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Transformation and the University of the West Indies Open Campus.
The aim of the forum was to engage various groups, survivors and their families in an open and honest dialogue about the prevalence of domestic violence in Antigua & Barbuda.
Tonni Brodber, United Nations (UN) Women Caribbean Multi Country Office representative and feature speaker at the event said the establishment of safe houses must be looked at with practicality in mind.
“The issue is the shelter management, how can they maintain those safe houses without, let’s say United Nations (UN) funds consistently because the UN is also shifting, so we don’t have as much funds as we did before,” Brodber said.
The UN representative said that the small size of the twin island should not be a deterrent to working to set up and maintain the safe house.
“One of the challenges we’ve been having across the Caribbean because we are small island development states, (and before I was posted here I was in the Pacific), [is] the issue [of] where is the safe house [going to be] because everybody knows everybody’s business anyway,” he said.
In the past, the Women Against Rape (WAR) group and several other groups called for the establishment of a safe house for victims of domestic and other abuses to include rape, human trafficking and the like because of “the prevalence” of such incidents in Antigua & Barbuda.
“We have to get creative in our spaces to find out how can we provide; people need more than 48 hours as well, but we have to start thinking in a different way than what works in some bigger countries because we don’t necessarily have the space or means to maintain right now,” Brodber said.

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