01/07/2014 13:09

Madang police fight domestic sexual violence

The launching, dedication and blessing of a “Family and Sexual Violence Centre” was done in the presence of numerous local dignitaries including the Governor of Madang, Hon Jim Kas on Saturday, 27 June 2014 at the Yomba police station. It is one of the first such police units in Papua New Guinea. Archbishop Stephen Reichert was invited to deliver the keynote address and this is what he had to say on the occasion:

By Archbishop Stephen Reichert OFM Cap

Family and Sexual violence has become an enormous concern in Papua New Guinea and our Province is not exempt from this serious problem. The more focused we as a community are about this problem, the more we realize just how huge, widespread and serious the problem is.

In the past, domestic violence, mostly violence against women and children and sexual violence has for the most part been kept hidden of swept under the floor mat. No one wants to get involved . “Em i no bisnis bilong mi. Wari bilong ol. Nogut em i kik bek long mi,” we sometimes say.

So, domestic violence and especially sexual violence, has been handled in what some would describe as the “traditional way”. More violence was sometimes the response, pay back, or, even more often these days, payment of compensation, sometimes for the most horrendous of crimes, the rape of children, even babies, brutal and repeated beatings of wives and children and other such violence.

We know that payback simply causes the circle of violence to continue and more people suffer from violence. Compensation might have satisfied some people, but it does not punish perpetrators of violence in a meaningful way nor provide justice for the victims of violence. Neither of these traditional methods of dealing with violence are a deterrent to stop further domestic violence and sexual violence crimes.

Here’s another problem. The public believes that we cannot get assistance from the police and the courts, nor from any other source, so what is the point of reporting these crimes? Why should we get involved?

Today we have gathered to witness the launching and establishment of a Family and Sexual Violence Unit in the Madang Province, with its office here at Yomba Police Headquarters. Throughout PNG this initiative is a project of the Royal PNG Constabulary. In Madang we thank Provincial Police Commander Chief Superintendent Sylvester Kalaut and his team for leadership in moving this initiative forward, along with the great support given by the Australian High Commission through the PNG Law and justice Partnership Program. Many other individuals and groups have joined hands to stop family and sexual violence too. We are all ready to work together so that this initiative bears fruit. No more family violence! No more sexual violence crimes! No more violence against women! No more violence against children! Let’s work together to stop violence of all kinds!

As reported in the media, a two-day workshop about family and sexual violence was held during the past two days. The purpose of the training was to look at police attitudes toward issues concerning family and sexual violence and to move away from the entrenched attitude of so-called “civil” and “family matters” which we need to change. “Many people who come to us feel ashamed and traumatized and don’t want to pursue their case. We need to do our bit to make this country free from violence.” Chief Superintendent Kalaut is quoted as saying.

It is extremely difficult in cases of family and sexual violence for victims of these crimes to find a way from the rural villages and towns into the courtroom where justice is found. There are many obstacles. However, the police stand at the door of the courtroom and can open it for victims by giving awareness, gaining the trust of the people, responding to people in need of assistance, investigating reported crimes quickly and offering compassionate support to victims of violence. That is the task of the Family and Sexual Violence Unit. It is very important that this unit, and the police in general, take strong action in every case to immediately investigate and prosecute all crimes related to Family and Sexual violence that come to their attention. We, the public, will then see and become confident that a new day has dawned in this matter. And we, the families and communities of the Madang Province must give whole-hearted, active support and cooperation to this effort to stop family and sexual violence.