Increase in domestic violence reporting on Santo
A national project to stop domestic violence is having an impact in South Santo, with the reporting of family violence to authorities and the issuing of protection orders for victims on the rise.
The project was set up in 2017 by President Obed Tallis who appointed 12 Authorised Persons to help the victims of violence living in remote areas get access to the justice system.
The Authorised Persons have the same power as the courts to issue temporary protection orders for victims of domestic violence.
Serah Lulu says since taking up her Authorised Persons role in South Santo Area Two in 2018, she has noticed that more women are feeling safer to report domestic violence and abuse.
“From December to March this year, I have issued 12 temporary protection orders for victims of violence in South Santo Area Two, which is a larger number than in the past,” Mrs Lulu told VBTC.
“This shows that people, especially in remote areas, are now understanding what we are doing and how important it is to protect the victims of domestic violence.
“Women are now coming out to report abuses because they feel protected and the service provided is quicker, free and at their door steps.
“Rather than paying for transport to Luganville Town and waiting a long time for the police or court to act, the victims can just come to us at the village to get a protection order.”
Mrs Lulu says some of the women reporting domestic abuse have been suffering violent abuse for a long time.
“Victims who have been in abusive relationships for many years but who found it difficult to report the abuse, are now coming out to report violence,” she says.
Mrs Lulu says her work is not just encouraging victims to report domestic violence.
She says many victims have told her that her work has changed the behaviour of many of the men who carry out the violence.
She says, “The offenders come to understand that what I am doing is helping them to live a better life, free of violence.”
“So, the protection orders [we issue] have changed the behaviour of offenders and kept them from entering the correctional centre – and the victims have been able to live a peaceful life in their homes and enjoy their relationships.”
Mrs Lulu says while she is seeing the positive impacts of her work now, her job has not been easy.
“Working as an Authorised Person, especially as a woman, is challenging in a society where men are dominant,” she says.
“Male offenders have sometimes questioned the work I do – they’d say I have no power to issue an order, and that only the police and courts can do this.
“I once issued an order to an offender and he cut the paper onto a coconut tree saying the order was of no relevance to him. But he was shocked later when the police arrested him.”
She says another offender threw her protection order into a toilet pit.
Mrs Lulu says physical violence is the main form of domestic abuse she deals with, but she says she also encounters emotional, sexual and financial abuse.
Mrs Lulu’s husband, Pastor Lulu Vula, the Area Secretary for South Santo Area Two, is also an Authorised Person.
Mrs Lulu says he is “very supportive” of her role.
Pastor Lulu Vula says he and his wife have issued 19 temporary protection orders since the start of the year which is an increase from previous years.
The Authorised Persons are able to issue 14-day orders to protect victims of domestic violence. For longer protection orders, victims still need to apply to the Magistrates’ Court.