The strictures of COVID-19, as explained below, has resulted in the fact that family members are spending much more time at home, together. That should be a good thing, right? Not if a family member is abusive. Women and girls are particularly at risk – so, too, are children. The human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is now offering support services for the many women who are struggling in the system, and who often don’t know where to turn. Here is their recent press release. Please do share with anyone you know who might need this information… P.S.We still need more shelters for victims of domestic violence.
June 18, 2020 – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has now established services directed to victims of gender- based violence.
Women and girls are at a higher risk for multiple forms of violence, hence the term “gender-based violence.” One-quarter of Jamaican women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, with very few receiving the protection, justice, and treatment that they need. According to Jamaica’s latest available data, “one in four women has experienced physical violence by a male partner,” and “one in four women reported being sexually harassed during their lifetime.” The impact of gender-based violence on women’s wellbeing is severe, with more than one-third of abused women suffering injuries from their abuse.
Jamaica’s 2016 Women’s Health Survey (which you can download from the Inter-American Development Bank website here) found that:
“Women who are abused have poorer general health and are more likely to suffer from depression and consider suicide than women who have never been abused…The danger that intimate partner violence poses to the children of battered women is particularly profound. These children are more likely to drop out of school…and face all the risks that flow from this and early exposure to violence.”
In more recent times, these challenges have been further exacerbated by the effects of a global pandemic on our society. COVID-19 is a public health emergency with significant socio-economic implications. While measures such as social distancing and stay-at-home orders have been created to reduce transmission of the coronavirus, these measures have indirectly intensified the problem of domestic violence. This disruption has not only increased the likelihood of tension and incidences of violence, but it has also exposed vulnerabilities in our response systems.
COVID-19 gives rise to an environment within which this issue of domestic violence thrives. There are now more stressors for abusers and less opportunities for victims to get out of their situations of violence and abuse. This “new” reality has yielded circumstances whereby individuals are forced into confinement with their abusers for longer periods of time. It is clear that the conditions which affect gender-based violence have been made worse by COVID-19, which creates an urgent need to tackle the roots of the issue directly.
As a part of our broader Gender-Based Violence programming, Jamaicans for Justice has established the Justice Services for Victims of Gender-Based Violence framework which provides affected persons with key redress and legal services free of cost to help them navigate the justice system.
In providing these services, JFJ seeks to support women and girls who suffer disproportionately from this form of violence, but not to the exclusion of men and boys who may also be victims and are entitled to benefit from these services. We acknowledge that the system does not always work for victims who need it the most and through this service, we hope to provide adequate support to those in need.
Under this initiative, JFJ will provide key redress and legal services in cases of domestic violence, sexual violence and harassment, child protection and otherwise. Victims of gender-based violence often need professional support to effectively respond to their cases in a sensitive and dignified manner. Unfortunately, the system often fails to do this, and worse, leaves them feeling unprotected, frustrated, and re-traumatized.
JFJ will provide the following services to assist persons to navigate the system to receive the protection, justice, and treatment that they need:
- Free legal advice to anyone affected, including persons and organizations that support victims.
- Case support to victims navigating the justice system. Our dedicated team will help persons get protection and seek justice in a way that best suits their needs. We can assist victims with making reports, interacting with the police, applying for court orders, and preparing legal documents.
- Legal representation on behalf of victims. Depending on the nature of the case and the availability of resources, our attorneys will represent victims who need attorneys and cannot afford them.
- Linking victims to other psychosocial support services, such as therapeutic, health and welfare services to help meet their different needs.
“We are strongly called to offer these services to those who are hurting and in need of support. Navigating the justice system can be a daunting and difficult endeavour. Helping in these specific ways is part of our service,” says Rodje Malcolm, Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice.