Revealed: 2010 statistics on Violence Against Women in Tonga
It has only been a year since the centre has been established yet WCCC’s statistics reflect the broader society trend in which more people are reporting incidences of violence against women. A total number of 354 clients sought the services of the centre, with an increased reporting trend occurring throughout the year.
For 2010 a total number of 354 clients sought the centre’s support services, including women, children and male clients. Domestic violence continues to be the most common source of support provided by WCCC, although reported cases of child abuse in 2010 have increased as have sexual violence cases including higher incidences of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The high peak season is noted between the months of May, Aug- December. However the high number of cases received in May is an anomaly - a large number of cases were referred to the centre in May although the incidents for referral occurred over a series of months. Therefore this peak is an exaggerated version of events.
The high peak season of August – December reflects the high numbers of reporting during the festivals that fall during this part of the year including the Heilala festival and Christmas festivities.
Low peak season is noted between the months Jan-April, June - July. Family obligations impact on the time and availability of women to report, which sees a dip in reporting during the beginning of the school year and also during church events of the year, where women often feel that obligations placed on them peak during this time, which they will priorities these obligations to their family and church obligations before their own welfare.
Neglect continues to be the most common reported form of child abuse. Other forms of child abuse, such as child sexual abuse, continue to be underreported with significant barriers making it difficult to report the actual level of these crimes. Barriers include a lack of appropriate legislation – without a Child Protection Act service providers have no legal baking to enter a situation if permission is not granted from a child’s direct guardians. Other barriers include a lack of trained personnel in institutions that work with children (such as teachers and health practitioners) to identify signs of abuse in children. Social stigma around reporting neglect is also significantly lower than reporting other types of child abuse, with significant causal factors of child neglect incorporating concepts that are culturally acceptable to discuss, such as poverty and hardship. Causal factors in other forms of child abuse are less culturally acceptable to discuss, with the role of the guardian of the child brought into question.
Despite increases in reported cases this year, cases of rape and sexual harassment continue to be underreported. Traditional taboos result in significant barriers to victims reporting these serious crimes- victims may feel embarrassed and frightened, and may know individuals in the institutions that they are reporting to. It is also highly likely that the victim will know the perpetrator of the crime - sexual violence is most commonly committed by an individual that is known to the perpetrator. Knowledge of the perpetrator can also be a significant barrier to reporting, with the victim concerned about ongoing relationships with the perpetrator and broader societal values of speaking out against the perpetrator.
Overall the crimes of violence against women and children that are committed – including domestic violence, child abuse and sexual abuse – are the result of gender inequalities between male and female partnerships. Analysis of the ‘the reasons for violence’ category for WCCC cases indicates that a pattern of male dominance and cultural patriarchy exists and is a significant factor in the majority of cases.
Women, who do not posses the same level of financial security as men and often feel the brunt of the social stigma about divorce, are often hesitant to leave violent relationships.
The system of patriarchy has a two fold impact on society’s ability to address violence against women. Firstly, patriarchy feeds into and encourages broadly held societal values that women are not of equal value to men. These attitudes result in increases in crimes of violence against women. Secondly, the patriarchal system discourages women from reporting crimes as they do not feel entitled to make a complaint, believing that their role in society is not of equal value to men, and that the opinion of men will be regarded as superior to their own. This sentiment may be best summed up by a client who reported a case of sexual harassment in the workplace:
“That day I felt so afraid that I can’t sleep at night for few weeks, I felt dirty and angry and when they were laughing at me I felt used ‘ little and without dignity, I also felt frustrated thinking that I can’t do anything about it, that I am powerless in this situation…”
Contributing factors data is collected by WCCC to document the reasons behind why violence occurs. Note that they are not comprehensive reasons, nor are they causes for violence, they are an aspect or feature that contribute to the violence occurring. There are different types of contributing factors that the centre uses namely: Jealousy/Power Control, Family Problems, Financial, Extra Marital Affairs, Drugs/ Alcohol and other.
Clients can be referred from many sources. The majority of clients are referred to WCCC from the Ministry of Police Domestic Violence Unit, the Ministry of Health Hospital referrals and other NGOs and relevant entities, such as district nurses. Clients also come in of their own accord, having heard about WCCC in the media, or by word of mouth – which is collected in our statistics as walk in clients.
WCCC is based in Fanga ‘O Pilolevu on Tongatapu. Serious cases from outer islands are referred by the Police, but the vast majority of services are provided to those on Tongatapu. Please consider these when looking at the following demographic statistics, as it is not a comprehensive reflection of all of Tonga. The highest numbers of WCCC clients come from the town / inner city district and Mu’a, which has a Domestic Violence Unit at the district Police Station.
New cases make up the majority of work that WCCC does, with ongoing cases accounting for 6% of the counselor’s caseload.
Mo’ui ke Fiefia Safe house statistics
46 Women and Children have stayed at the safe house in 2010. The ‘accompanying children’ category indicates that the children are not clients of the centre - they came with their mother’s who are the clients of the centre. The free, temporary housing at the safe house is only provided by WCCC to those clients who are deemed high risk and in need of a safe place to stay. A comprehensive life skills program is being developed within the safe house to help provide further development for women and children using the centre’s services.
The safe house has survived due to ongoing community support. All furniture, clothing and food at the Safe House have been donated.
Client to Counselor per month
Approximately, each counselor has an average of 10-15 clients per month. This enables each counselor to conduct follow up actions with each of their clients and check how their cases are progressing. Although it has only been a year since the centre has established it has been a busy year for the centre.
It is therefore unhealthy for each counselor to take care of more than 10 clients a month but due to the fact that the centre received a total of 354 clients last year still our counselors were able to help and support their clients through their court cases, conducting home visits and also follow up actions by phone.
WCCC statistics indicate that community awareness programs, media, and advocacy programs have led to increased awareness of the centre’s services and how it supports women and children in need. Awareness programs were conducted at 24 communities and 12 schools during the year as well as at Vaiola Hospital. In addition two Male Advocacy workshops were conducted, with the support of Global Fund for Women and the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre.
Due to the centre’s financial status workshops were kept to a minimum. The more cost effective methods of community awareness were employed – conducting sessions and door knocking in communities which are also viewed as appropriate awareness mechanisms to discuss the topics that WCCC advocates for, which are often considered culturally taboo. Ongoing awareness was also conducted at Vaiola Hospital which involves educating health professionals to recognize signs of abuse and to encourage referrals. School awareness involves dedicating time in school assemblies to WCCC, in which the students are broken into groups of boys and girls, and the services and work of WCCC is discussed. Monitoring and evaluation is incorporated into each of these programs with a variety of feedback indicating that WCCC’s core message is being relayed; that violence is never acceptable.
The male advocacy program is also run on a minimal budget. The WCCC male advocate attended faikava at a number of communities where he and a large group of men were able to discuss issues regarding DV/VAW. This was free of charge and also convenient because they were able to talk on different views simply spreading the message.
Community Awareness and Advocacy Statistics
2010 witnessed the first sex trafficking case for the Kingdom, in line with increasing rates of reported cases of sex trafficking in the Pacific. Sex trafficking is when a person is held against their will and forced into committing sexual acts in exchange for gifts or money.
It is anticipated that the trend of increased reporting will continue in 2011 as community awareness about all forms of abuse increases.