JASL welcomes new domestic violence shelter

JASL welcomes new domestic violence shelter

Friday, October 23, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica— Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) says it is heartened by the news that Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, has opened the first-state run shelter for survivors of domestic abuse.

In a statement today, JASL noted that the shelter, which has long been anticipated, will serve as a haven for the over 15 per cent of Jamaican women and young girls who face domestic violence.

Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer, said that shelters are a crucial component of providing a holistic response to survivors of domestic abuse.

“One of the first questions when we hear that a woman is in an abusive relationship is, why she don't just leave? Oftentimes, leaving an abusive relationship can be life threatening, especially when you do not have somewhere to go,” he said.

The organisation noted that prior to the opening of the state-run shelter, Jamaica had only one official shelter that is operated by a non-governmental organisation, Woman Inc. It noted that the shelter only has a capacity of eight people.

“For nearly two decades, JASL and other civil society partners have been lobbying the government on both sides to make available a national shelter for women and young girls who continue to fall prey to domestic abuse,” the group's statement said.

“While the work of Woman Inc, civil society partners and other community and church groups must be lauded and continues to be needed, a bold move from the government was necessary and tantamount to addressing gender-based violence and domestic abuse,” Lalor said.

“JASL, like many of its other partner agencies such as Eve for Life, have provided support to many women and young girls who are even more powerless during the times of COVID-19 as they are stuck in homes with their abusers,” the statement noted.

“JASL therefore notes that while both state and non-governmental agencies have revealed that reports of suspected domestic violence and sexual abuse have fallen off dramatically since children have been at home and the stay at home measures in effect, it should not be interpreted that there is a decline in incidences of domestic and sexual violence, but rather, an inability of the victims to actually make reports,” it added.

“As a service provider, JASL has a vested interested in this matter given the risks of sexual violence and domestic abuse among some of our existing clients and those who often call our offices seeking support in this regard,” the statement noted.

“We look forward to future dialogue with the ministry around critical areas to ensure the shelter is able to provide a comprehensive response to sexual and domestic violence,” JASL said.

The organisation said it stands ready to partner and engage with the ministry around the shelter's operating protocols, and what reintegration programmes will be offered so that clients who are in need of support can be referred.

“A critical next step, which we anticipate will soon be undertaken, is the necessary legislative reforms, such as a review of the Domestic Violence Act, to complement the housing solution of the shelter,” the group added.

 

JASL also encouraged women who are being abused to make use of the new facility and call the police or the crisis hotline at (876) 929-9038.


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