Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Hope Haven hosts forum on Domestic Violence

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On Friday, July 9th, Hope Haven Domestic Violence Outreach Center, an upcoming facility under Raise me Up, held its first forum on Domestic Violence in San Pedro Town. The workshop also discussed domestic violence legislation and collaborated with the Youth Enhancement Services (YES).

The session saw representatives from the San Pedro Police Formation, private sector, churches, community, and local media. The forum took place at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve conference room from 8:30AM to 11:30AM to raise awareness on domestic violence issues on the island.

Members of the local police force pointed out that domestic violence is severe and is one of the most offenses reported. Due to the issue being so common, a special female police officer has been assigned to oversee them. Victims are often concerned about their safety and do not proceed with the case, even returning to the abusive environment/home.

Domestic Violence Act

YES’ Sherlette Neal and Sherlene Tablada discussed the Domestic Violence Act and how it can benefit those affected. The Act can provide someone with assistance by allowing them to apply for a Protection Order, Occupation Order, a Tenancy Order, a Counselling Order, an Order for payment of financial compensation, and even an Interim Order. These services (orders) are accessed by a police officer or a social welfare/public officer. A child by consanguinity can also apply with the help of an officer of the Women’s Department.

Neal and Tablada went over the different applications. A Protection or Restraining Order keeps the abuser away from the victim. This also applies to the victim, who should not approach the person they are legally seeking to keep away.

On an application for a Protection Order, the court may make an Interim Order. This will be in effect pending the hearing and determination of the proceedings. An Interim Order may be necessary to ensure the safety and protection of the applicant or the best interest and welfare of any child. An Interim Order shall not exceed 21 days.

Victims of domestic violence should know that they have the right to apply for an Occupation Order. This grants them the right to live in the household for a period subject to terms and conditions dictated by the court. The perpetrator is asked to leave. The police are to protect the victim in case the abuser returns. There is a similarity with the Tenancy Order in which the perpetrator must go but is mandated to continue taking care of expenses such as rent.

If there is a need for the respondent or applicant to get counseling, a Counselling Order directs them to receive professional counseling or therapy from a person or agency approved by the ministry responsible for social services. This order may be issued when the applicant desires to leave the relationship and wants the abuse to end.

In financial compensation, rent or mortgage payments must continue concerning the premises occupied by the applicant. This order also says that there should be payment/compensation for monetary loss incurred by the applicant as a direct result of conduct that amounted to domestic violence.

Hope Haven Domestic Violence Outreach Center

According to Hope Haven, in 2020, they signed a lease agreement for a building that will house three offices, a communal area/meeting area, and five private rooms with bathrooms. The plan is to collaborate closely with the police department and have an office space for them to work alongside clients reporting violence and accepting witnesses’ statements.

The second office will be for an in-house counselor who will provide free counseling to women. The third office space will alternately be used by a representative from the Women’s Department and an attorney. The attorney will provide clients/victims with legal advice on how to move forward once they have left the abusive relationship.

The communal area will accommodate partners and stakeholders to hold support groups, parenting classes, or other training sessions geared at women and young girls. In 2019, Hope Haven had a successful two-week ‘Teen Dating Abuse Program’ for teenage girls. According to the outreach center, the feedback from parents and the island community was positive. More of these programs will take place at the domestic center when it is ready.

The center also wants to equip survivors of domestic abuse with the tools needed to thrive outside of the toxic environment. In most cases, the victims will receive teaching in financial literacy, training, and entrepreneurial lessons.

To accomplish this and more, the center is kindly asking for support via donations. Anyone willing and able can donate via PayPal at https://bit.ly/3hBNJ44

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