Police Commissioner Derek Byrne
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne

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Domestic violence reports have started to increase as Cayman continues its lockdown in response to COVID-19.

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, speaking at Monday’s coronavirus briefing, said his team has noted a “spike” in reports.

He said on Sunday night there were seven incidents of domestic violence, two of which were recorded as alcohol-related.

“We’ve dealt with them. It is a small spike one night over the past two weeks, so we’re going to keep a very careful eye on that for individuals who might be in an unsafe home situation,” Byrne said.

With Cayman in lockdown, seeking safe haven may present a problem for those needing shelter from abusers.

However, both Byrne and Ania Milanowska, executive director of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, have said shelter space is available.

The commissioner said when it comes to the availability of government’s isolation facilities, victims will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

He said cases are reported to the National Emergency Operations Centre, and the Crisis Centre remains open.

“People can report, seek assistance, and it’s dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Those are things we’re watching very, very carefully internally, in terms of child and family protection,” Byrne said.

Milanowska said the Crisis Centre admitted two new clients over the weekend. “Presently, I have four adults and eight children [at the centre],” she said.

In a statement to the Cayman Compass, she said, for most people, homes are the safest places to be during the COVID-19 crisis. However, for survivors of domestic violence, their homes are the most dangerous.

“The isolation, unemployment, financial stress and spending a lot of time under the same roof as the abuser, makes the survivors even more vulnerable,” Milanowska said in the statement. “Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour in a relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Isolation from family and friends is one of the tactics used by the perpetrator.”

This, she said, is why it is very important, especially at this time, to have a safety plan in place.

“Pack a bag with important documents, change of clothes and essential medication. Have our 24/7 crisis line number on speed dial, 943-2422,” she advised. “Ask your family member or a friend to check on you regularly via phone, email, text message, and have a code word ready, so they know that even if you are saying that everything is fine, by using this special word you are asking them for help – they can call 911 for you,” she said.

Safety planning tips

  1. Have an escape plan in mind. How can you leave the house and where would you go if you need to leave to preserve your safety?
  2. Prepare an escape bag with important documents or copies (ID, birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, immigration documents for you and your children, medical prescriptions), charged cellphone, cash, bank card, clothes, prescribed medication, etc.
  3. Tell a friend or neighbour about the abuse and ask them to call the police if they hear suspicious noises.
  4. Teach your child how to dial 911 in case of emergency and practise with them what to say: what is happening, the address, etc.
  5. Tell your children that if abuse starts, to run to the neighbour’s house and ask for help.
  6. Have a previously agreed code word, signal, sign or emoji with your children and friends that means you need them to call the police.
  7. Minimise confrontation. When you feel the tension building in your household, try to de-escalate it. if an argument starts, move to a room that is safe with an alternative escape route (big window, additional door) – avoid the kitchen and the bathroom.
  8. Make sure your phone is always charged.

If you or someone you know needs help or would like to develop a personalised safety plan, call the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre on their 24/7 crisis line at 943-2422.

In case of emergency call 911.

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