Spotlight on domestic violence

Local advocacy groups are set to mark 16 days of activism against gender-based violence this month to shine the light on domestic abuse.

The days are part of the annual UN Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) campaign. The initiative runs from 25 Nov., the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, until 10 Dec. This year’s theme for the 16 days is ‘Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!’

The Business and Professional Women’s Club of Cayman and local domestic-violence support groups have planned a number of activities to mark the international campaign locally.

BPW and Silent Witness March co-chair Mahreen Nabi said domestic violence continues to be a challenging issue for local law enforcement agencies and not-for-profit organisations here on island.

Domestic violence in the Cayman Islands
2017 – 990 reports
2018 –  2,218 reports
2019 – 1,900 (up to August)
(Source: MASH)

“Domestic violence is a societal issue; it impacts schools, it impacts your churches, it impacts every single group in society, and everybody needs to be getting involved,” she said.

Last month BPW held it 19th Silent Witness March to highlight the stories of those who live lives affected by violence.

“We hope that by doing this year after year, making noise year after year and having people discuss it in the media we can help build that awareness and get that action and then, ultimately, have more services to support victims and help have more awareness of issues that relate to domestic violence,” Nabi said.

Fighting for the cause in Cayman

Last year Cayman recorded over 2,000 domestic-violence cases and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said they expect that number to be surpassed by the end of the year as they have already registered 1,900 cases through August.

In 2017, there were about 900 reports of domestic violence, said Mehr Lamba, outreach coordinator with the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. “In 2018 it was over 2,200 and that’s more than a 124% increase in domestic violence reports, but it is not because domestic violence is happening more,” she added.

Read Amy’s story about ending the cycle of abuse

She believes the high number of reports show that more people are reaching out for help.
She said the global MeToo movement and Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment and abuse had helped.

“It’s a worldwide shift in how people are talking about domestic violence and people are recognising the experience they are having,” Lamba said.

She said those supporting domestic-violence survivors see the rise in reporting as an increase in people reaching out for help.

“We are not seeing that as a negative thing, that there is an increase in domestic violence happening. It just means that people know that our services are available. People are accessing our services to leave abusive situations and begin to live their lives free from violence,” she said.

Lamba pointed out that in Cayman efforts to deal with domestic violence are growing with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Unit (MASH) hub and the Crisis Centre opening of Estella’s Place, which is a walk-in centre.

“We are doing more as a community in Cayman to raise awareness of domestic violence and people are taking a stand against it more than they ever have,” she said.

Cayman opened a specialist domestic-violence court last year to fast-track related cases through the court system.

Last month seven not-for-profits and government agencies came together to formally launch the Alliance to End Domestic Violence, under the patronage of the governor’s wife, Elisabeth Roper.

The alliance said its objective is to end domestic violence and to do this it will work with other community organisations as necessary, as well as directly consult with people who have experienced such abuse.

Alliance to End Domestic Violence members

Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Community Rehabilitation, the Family Resource Centre, the Gender Affairs Unit, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.