IN one week, a local outreach group has come to the aid of six women, all victims of domestic violence.
Families Of All Murder Victims, run by activist Khandi Gibson, was launched several years ago mainly provide support to relatives of murder victims. Since the COVID-19 restrictions have come into effect, Ms Gibson has watched FOAM evolve into an avenue for help for domestic violence victims as well. Among the victims is one woman who was punched in the face ten times by her partner and another who was forced to have sex in exchange for somewhere to stay.
“What is on the rise right now is domestic violence,” Ms Gibson told The Tribune yesterday. “I have had to assist six different women either because of disputes between them and their husbands or them and their boyfriends.
“This is physical violence with the boyfriend fighting the girlfriend or husbands threatening to kill the wives. A husband beat his wife and put her out. Someone’s arm was fractured and she had to move out.
“There was a situation where a woman was forced to have sex for a place to stay.”
FOAM, with its limited resources and the help of a handful of people, has been able to remove these women from violent and dangerous situations, she said.
Ms Gibson said a lot of her requests for help come through Facebook. However, she says she needs more community support to assist victims.
“What I realise is people are quick to tag me in posts on Facebook, but when it’s time to put out for assistance they are mute. These people need help.”
The victims need places to stay, food to eat, clothes and emotional support, she said.
“I have had to ask a friend of mine with a big home to take someone and her children in. I have two with me at my place and I asked a gentleman that I know for someone to stay in his empty office space.
“So right now we need everything, from bread, cream, sugar, corned beef, eggs, canned goods, cleaning supplies, clothing. We need everything. If somebody can open up their home or their apartment for persons to stay it would go a long way.
“We are also asking for landlords to be lenient. If you have a tenant that was on time with rent and now has no job please work with them and tenants need to openly communicate with landlords.”
She suggested churches that have been shut amid the pandemic or MPs who aren’t using constituency offices could also allow displaced women or families to temporarily seek shelter in their buildings.
Local and international experts have sounded the alarm that COVID-19 lockdowns will lead to an increase in domestic violence.
Earlier this month, a local psychologist said victims need to make an ‘escape plan’ just in case.
Psychologist Barrington Brennen of Marriage and Family Counselling Services said: “Domestic violence, upon checking my research, has increased and (is) intensified during a lockdown. In the way of prevention, some women, knowing what the lockdown would have done to them, found ways of not going home to their husbands or boyfriends. Many women are in denial or they have no place to go or they are ashamed so they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and find themselves being very sensitive and walking on eggshells.”
Mr Brennen said women in these situations should avoid escalating arguments where possible and give the abuser the space to vent and relax. He said if it is evident the abuser is threatening harm, the victim should try to call a neighbour or trusted friend without the abuser knowing.
He also suggested going into a room that can be locked from the inside, find ways of getting out of the house and calling the police.
Those needing help can reach the Bahamas Crisis Centre on their hotline at 328-0922 or via text or WhatsApp at 565-9633.
FOAM can be reached at email@example.com, 603-4141 or on Facebook.