The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence mobilised organisations around the world, including Seif Ples, which joined the campaign by highlighting the services it offers victims of gender-based violence and sexual abuse.
The public was invited yesterday to tour the crisis response and referral centre in Rove during its annual open house.
Seif Ples Deputy Centre Manager Falu Maesugea said Seif Ples is on the frontline in the fight against violence in the country.
“We see women who go through a lot of physical violence,” she said. “We see the fear in their eyes; we see pain and terror, too.”
From January to November, the number of cases the centre received increased by 26 percent compared with last year’s annual figures.
Ms Maesugea said the rising numbers make Seif Ples staff worry that their resources will not be sufficient to meet demand.
But they also mean that people are aware of the centre’s services and legislation that provides for the wellbeing of victims of violence, such as the Family Protection Act.
“It’s not a good thing that women come in,” she said. “It’s not good, but then we’re happy too that it shows that people know, and that’s why people report and are referred here.”
In August, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases ever in one month, but according to Assistant Commissioner of National Capital and Crime Prevention Gwen Ratu, the number does not capture the prevalence of domestic violence in the country.
“More troubling than these reported figures is the fact that we know there is significant under-reporting of this type of crime,” Ms Ratu said at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism in Honiara on November 25. “To me, this figure only reinforces the fact that progress is not happening fast enough.”
Seif Ples is supported by the police force, the Ministry of Police and National Security, the Honiara City Council and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services through a memorandum of understanding signed in 2014.
The medical services Seif Ples offers are free of charge. They include providing an emergency contraceptive pill to prevent unwanted pregnancy in cases of rape, administering tetanus and hepatitis B shots, and HIV counseling and referral to the national HIV unit.
People from across the country can get information on counselling and referrals through the toll free hotline at 132.
Seif Ples also allows victims to stay at the centre for 24 hours before they are referred to a facility with long-term accommodations, such as the Christian Care Centre at Tenaru.
Donations and fundraising play a considerable role in sustaining these services, Ms Maesugea said, because the centre has not had a recurrent budget since its establishment in 2014.
As a result, resources mainly cater to the needs of women, girls and boys under the age of 14.
But Seif Ples accepts everyone — including men.
Currently, men can use the centre’s referral services for experiences with trauma or physical violence. But the centre’s accommodation service, with only two beds, is not accessible to them.
“As time goes on, we look to expand to that area to see how we can accommodate men too and what kinds of resources we can provide for the men,” Ms Maesugea said.
Yet, she said the support network for victims should not be limited to Seif Ples and other organisations that work to address violence.
“It’s not only the business of a person inside their house or of the family alone, but it’s everyone’s business,” she said. “It’s the business of communities and our Government and everyone.”
And her work has shown her that there is no typical victim of violence.
Well-educated people, wealthy people, the employed and unemployed and those from all other socio-economic levels access the centre’s services.
“Violence doesn’t choose anyone,” she said. “It happens everywhere.”
By Merinda Valley; Reporting by Leni Dalavera