Gov’t agency seeks support for ‘safe haven’ for victims of domestic abuse

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By Kadeem Joseph

[email protected]

The Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA) is welcoming discussions on the establishment of a safe house for victims of domestic abuse as it appeals to the business community for support.

This week, Cabinet held a Zoom meeting with two United Nations officials concerning domestic or gender-based violence, during which a number of prevention strategies were discussed “since only a small number of events are ever reported to the police”.

The discussions followed the June 20 killing of 50-year-old Althea Henry, which occurred during an alleged domestic dispute.

Jamaica native Linsome Boyd has since been charged with murder in connection with the offence.

The recent homicide highlights the dire need for emergency accommodations for victims of domestic abuse and the Acting Director of DoGA, Jamie Saunders, explained that such a measure is seen as a priority for the directorate, “understanding that vulnerable people facing abuse need a place to have as a safe haven”.

He said initial proposals have been made to establish a national shelter, but progress on the project has been “slow” so far.

“DoGA is also reaching out to corporate Antigua and Barbuda to try and solicit financial assistance to house people privately, in emergency situations, in the interim,” Saunders said.

In further highlighting the importance of such a facility, he explained that not having a safe haven can deter victims from coming forward, because in some instances they do not have family and friends, or the resources to accommodate themselves.

“Also, in general, a shelter would come with training and additional psychosocial support for those using the service, which we hope would mean more autonomy upon them leaving the shelter and also being able to address some of the trauma associated with the abuse,” Saunders added.

The acting director said that with financial resources remaining a major impediment to the establishment of a shelter, the directorate may also have to reach out to regional and international agencies to assist the government with funding, similarly to the development of the directorate’s Support and Referral Centre (SARC).

Saunders also noted that the directorate has been advocating for a rehabilitation programme for perpetrators of abuse to supplement the prevention efforts currently existing for gender-based violence.

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