Gaps in the national response to domestic violence.

In early January, 2016, I was speaking with members of Domestic Violence Survivors Reaching Out: An NGO composed of survivors and other supporters in Trinidad and Tobago. Here is a list of some of the gaps they have identified in the national response to domestic violence.

Gaps in Law
1. There is no provision for a woman’s claim to property when she has to flee a domestic violence situation.
2. There is no action taken against perpetrators when protection orders are breached or threats are made to a woman’s life. Magistrates do not implement provisions in law to deny bail to persons who breach protection orders.
3. There is no mandatory counseling for perpetrators who are sentenced.
4. There are no victim advocates provided by the state to help women through the process of seeking legal redress for abuse or claim on property.

Gaps in practice
1. Despite what procedures may exist, Police officers are often uncertain how to deal with domestic violence situations including child abuse.
2. Police officer sometimes prey on the vulnerability of women who come to police for assistance.
3. Police officers are sometimes perpetrators and other police officers refuse to take reports made against their colleagues.
4. Despite having a system where members of the public who make reports must get receipt, police officers do not always write down reports.
5. Government social service agencies close their doors at 4pm, thereby leaving women without available support after working hours. State sponsored counseling is offered for half hour every three months.

Gaps in Institutional support
1. There is no emergency care fund for women who find themselves homeless and penniless when they are put out of the home. Wait times for food cards etc can takes weeks to process.
2. There is no transitional housing to support women psychologically or develop skills, coping mechanisms to live on their own.
3. Women’s Shelters do not provide for housing of male children over the age of 13.
4. When a domestic violence incident occurs, the victims have to leave the home and not the perpetrator.
5. Children placed in ‘homes’ often become victims or perpetrators of sexual violence at these institutions. There is no comprehensive state monitoring system to address this very prevalent issue.

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