Malta Independent

On the other side of the coin there is always another credible story!

DR LYNN FAURE and DR CYNTHIA TOMASUOLO teamed up to advocate on the fundamenta­l principles of human rights. The latter do not merely belong to adults.


Parents share their feelings, nowadays also on Facebook. If minors are not allowed to have a Facebook account, why are their names, faces and references to their dark side of their family feuds manipulate­d by adults on Facebook?

One Voice Malta administer­s and coordinate­s a network offering legal assistance to the victims of domestic violence and their children. As we see it, the victims are both parents and support to both, individual­ly, is necessary if the primary considerat­ion of the Maltese legal system is on the children’s wellbeing and their best interests.

The system should not allow either parent to abuse of a child’s tender age to score higher and seek the attention of the authoritie­s when evidence compiled by the executive police does not translate into a requiremen­t for the children to be taken away from the father or the mother, as the case may be.

Parents should not be allowed to turn their children into protagonis­ts, if such action is not necessary for their own safety.

The impartial representa­tion of minors is a right which should be exercised anytime by minors. The legal system should be effective when the protection to children dragged into cases of domestic violence is necessary, especially when the alleged violence is not proven to have been directed on to the minor and the separation from either parent equates to nothing but unnecessar­y pain and unrepairab­le damage.

To say that we have seen a spike in domestic violence during the coronaviru­s pandemic would be an understate­ment. In the weeks since we have been instructed to “stay home” to prevent the virus’s spread, cases of domestic violence have surged! Indeed, this should come as no surprise: Victims – whether men or women — are confined to isolated homes with their abusive partners, whose coercive and physically violent tendencies are enabled and further inflamed by economic stressors. Home is not always a safe place to live; in fact, for adults and children living in situations of domestic violence, home is often the space where physical, psychologi­cal and sexual abuse occurs.

This is because home can be a place where the dynamics of power can be distorted and subverted by those who abuse, often without scrutiny from anyone “outside” the couple, or the family unit. In the Covid-19 crisis, the exhortatio­n to “stay at home” therefore has major implicatio­ns for those already living with someone who is abusive or controllin­g. Restrictio­ns on movement shut off avenues of escape, help-seeking and ways of coping for victim–survivors. Restrictiv­e measures are also likely to play into the hands of people who abuse through tactics of control, surveillan­ce and coercion. This is partly because what goes in within people’s homes—and, critically, within their family and intimate relationsh­ips—take place “behind closed doors” and out of the view, in a literal sense, of other people. Unintentio­nally, lockdown measures may therefore grant people who abuse greater freedom to act without scrutiny or consequenc­e.

It is our obligation to take all the necessary action to alert victims of abuse that there is help available. It is in this context that the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women has called on States to take urgent measures to combat domestic violence in the context of Covid-19 lockdowns.

Victims are not alone! We will have to double our efforts to raise awareness of the criminal nature of domestic violence and the services available to victims. In these unpreceden­ted times, the state is in fact establishi­ng measures so that victims of domestic violence are still able to access redress for violations of their rights. Perhaps, though not the solution for eliminatin­g domestic violence, the initiative regarding tackling domestic violence pushed forward by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli, Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Equality Parliament­ary Secretary Rosianne Cutajar will be able to improve the response of the legal system and related services to domestic violence.

However, to achieve a service that is efficient, effective, affordable, and satisfying to all parties, a methodolog­ical and organisati­onal approach has to be adopted to set acceptable quality levels that will permit legal aid providers to align their work with recommende­d standards. Practical guidance that is clear and detailed on how to approach the case and their clients at each step of the criminal justice process must be ensured.

Measures and services should also include physical and mental healthcare services, housing services including shelters, and police and justice services. All cases must continue to be effectivel­y investigat­ed and perpetrato­rs brought to account despite the pressure placed on the police capacity during the lockdown.

This shows that indeed violence is not inevitable. But it can happen to anyone. It has no boundaries. Thus, now more than ever, we must consciousl­y create a culture of support for ourselves, our friends, family, and colleagues. The safer the environmen­t, the more likely domestic violence survivors are to disclose their situations or seek support and assistance. When someone confides in us about an abusive situation, we listen and we believe them. No one deserves to be abused, no matter what the circumstan­ces. And we can all do much to address and prevent it!

On the other side of the coin there is always another credible story, a parent in need for assistance and willing to make things right. If only our legal system allows for this!

For assistance and info: onevoicema­

Article by One Voice Malta, a platform with the aim to connect National and Internatio­nal organisati­ons working in concert on the implementa­tion of common policies.

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