The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced the reporting of domestic violence and as a result, a domestic abuse hotline number – 914 – was launched on Thursday as the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security concludes its 16 Days of activism against gender-based violence and also coincides with the International Day of Human Rights.
Subject Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud noted that the launch is especially important given the fact that there has been a reduction by at least 50% in domestic violence reports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, a total of 1,009 reports were recorded, but for 2020 so far, there has only been 569 reports of domestic violence.
“Why is that so? Because more people are at home and we do know that perpetrators of violence are some of the closest people to you and this is why it is imperative that 914 has to work,” the Minister said during the launch which was held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.
When a call is placed to the number, a trained customer service operator will connect the caller to a social worker, who will provide the necessary consultations and refer children and parents to local service providers and other relevant agencies.
A list of police officers, who will directly respond when persons call the hotline, was also established. Police reports on domestic violence show that nine out of 10 perpetrators are men while nine out of 10 victims are women. The most common form of violence reported in Guyana is assault and 80% of these reported cases were from persons in intimate relationships.
Meanwhile, over 60 % of perpetrators, who were arrested, have been charged or taken before the courts. While the new hotline number will not immediately change the culture of violence in Guyana, Minister Persaud said it signifies a start to the long journey ahead of ending violence.
“I have no doubt that we are in for a future where we are going to tackle something that the world grapples with – violence – and let us make Guyana the model to be held aloft because we will not only tackle it, but succeed and how do we succeed?
“By saying enough with the violence, by meaning it and by seeing there is no more violence in our country,” Minister Persaud said.
SURVIVOR TELLS HER STORY
A survivor of domestic violence shared her story at the launch, noting that if the hotline number was launched years ago, numerous lives could have been saved.
“I am happy because I know a lot of women would be saved and if something go wrong, you have someone to call or somewhere to call…I wish if I had that 15 years ago, I would have never been living with all these scars.
“I thank God for who came up with this plan to save women from today,” 40-year-old Patricia Smithet, said at the launch.
Smithet, who is a mother of four and now an independent businesswoman, suffered years of abuse at the hands of her husband. She managed to escape and she is now urging women to fight for themselves because, according to her, domestic violence starts and ends with women.
“Being abused for a number of years, I gain strength from it, I use everything that was done to me and I motivate myself.
“I was controlled….humiliated because I was dependent; now I am independent, I am a minibus owner and driver and life is so much different,” an emotional Smithet said.
The hotline initiative is in partnership with the Ministry, UNICEF, Digicel Guyana and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph company.