By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
AS the nation grapples with fallout from COVID-19, another social ill – domestic violence – is said to be mushrooming out of control.
According to activist Khandi Gibson, she receives multiple calls daily from people enduring all forms of violence, especially in households where the weight of the economic downturn is heaviest.
The founder and president of the local advocacy group, Families of All Murder Victims (FOAM), told The Tribune yesterday the government needs to divert resources to assist victims of domestic violence.
She said with the onset of COVID-19, domestic violence continues to grow, affecting not only women, but also men.
Ms Gibson renewed calls for the creation of a gender-based violence unit at every police station on the island. The advocate said many times police are the first point of contact for victims, so it is logical that officers be trained to handle these kinds of incidents.
“I had a gentleman call me. He and his girlfriend were at it and he said it was a heated situation and that he needed me to come and get her,” the FOAM founder told The Tribune yesterday. “I had to call the police and the police sent a patrol car there to him.
“I thank God that he was able to reach out to me instead of it turning into a serious matter.
“Then we have females reaching out to me who are in domestic situations. One called saying the boyfriend was fighting her with the baby in her hand.
“But their main problem is they have nowhere to go.”
She continued: “On a daily basis I get these calls. There is only so much an NGO can do and the people don’t want to go to Social Services because of the time it takes when they go there.
“They come to a home thinking that we are superman or superwoman, but at this time I have to tell people I am so sorry that I have to refer them to Social Services.
“On the police end they might say that it hasn’t risen, but not everything is reported to the police. A lot of the stuff is reported to NGOs.”
Apart from the establishment of gender-based violence units at stations, Ms Gibson is also calling for transportation to remove victims from violent situations, a travel budget in cases of relocation and a COVID-19 testing allowance.
She also wants there to be a budget that allows victims to pay for housing for at least six weeks and for there to be follow-ups and an action plan for victims who have gone to the police. The plan would actively log the victim’s complaints and fears in the event alleged perpetrators attempt contact, commit further abuses or make threats.
“There should be a gender-based violence unit at every police station with trained certified officers. No one reached out to me in reference to that. I guess because it’s coming from me, it don’t make no sense, but if a white woman with blue eyes comes and says it then it’ll make plenty sense.
“This is needed and also Urban Renewal needs to be 24 hours.
“What have we done since the woman and her daughter were killed? Are we going to wait for the next victim?”
Ms Gibson was referring to the murder of Alicia Sawyer, 30, and her eight-year-old daughter Ednique Wallace in their Nassau Village home more than two weeks ago.
Police suspect the double killing came after a domestic dispute.
“We are lacking support for women who report incidents of domestic violence. We don’t have anyone to follow-up with victims to ask them if their alleged perpetrator has made contact with them since they reported the incident or whether they feel safe.
“Where is this process? No, we leave them alone and wait for them to come back complaining that they are still being abused.
“More needs to be done.”