My fellow residents of the Virgin Islands, putting a stop to domestic violence is one of the most pressing and important challenges we face as a community and as a people.
The devastating physical, social, emotional and financial impact on women, men, children, and families affect all of us in some way; and places a heavy emotional, psychological and financial burden on our society.
I have been troubled by the statistics, and baffled by reports of severe physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Behind these statistics are people and families whose lives have been changed forever.
My message to you, as Minister for Health and Social Development, is that Domestic Violence is not a private matter. It has serious consequences for both the individual victim and the wider society. It not only has immense personal and social cost, but also an economic cost, which includes loss of productivity.
Let me also say to victims of Domestic Violence that you do not have to suffer in silence, and you have no reason to be ashamed. It is the abuser that brings disgrace to our society.
The good news is that help is available for both the victims and perpetrators by contacting the Office of Gender Affairs, the Social Development Department or the Family Support Network.
This month marks the one year anniversary since the signing of the Domestic Violence Protocol and Government agencies continue to honour the pledge to ensure that domestic violence cases are handled professionally, and with the utmost sensitivity.
We now provide services for men who are brought before the Court for domestic violence offences. I am very pleased with the report received that of the eighty-three (83) men have completed the Partnership for Peace programme ran by the Office of Gender Affairs, only one participant has been brought back before the Court on related charges.
My message to men who abuse women is to seek help to change your life for the better.
Jackson Katz, co-founder of the organization Mentors in Violence Prevention says, “We need more men with the guts, with the courage, with the strength, with the moral integrity to break our complicit silence and challenge each other and stand with women and not against them.”
I issue this challenge to all men. Take a stand and let our voices be heard to change the way our community looks at domestic violence. While it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up, the loudest voices may come from men. Hence, our theme for this year’s observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is: You Can Be the Change.
While the risk to women is higher, and women’s injuries tend to be more severe, a significant number of men, children, and older people are directly affected by domestic abuse as well. We all have a role to play.
I call on businesses, non-profit organisations, religious organsations and each of us as individuals to join hands with the Office of Gender Affairs, the Family Support Network and other partners, and stand together as a community against domestic violence. Together, we can restore respect, compassion, courage and hope; and make our homes and communities safer for everyone. Thank you.