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Saints say No to violence at home

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Growing numbers of people on St Helena are seeking help after being attacked in their homes.

And on the last weekend of November 2012, men and women on the island were asked to wear white ribbons to show their opposition to domestic violence.

A coffee morning and a vigil were organised to help spell out the message to abusers – and let victims know they need not suffer in silence.

Police reported seven incidents of domestic violence over a three-month period from late August 2012, and six people were arrested – including one women. Some were refused bail.

A new push to reduce violence in the home began when the international White Ribbon Day was marked on St Helena for the first time.

St Helena Police adopted a policy on dealing with reported cases the same day, on 25 November 2011.

Christine Coleman, of the social services department, said: “From that, people are being made more aware, and now I feel people are not afraid to come forward and speak up when they feel they are being treated by their partner in a way that they feel is unfair or violent.

“By wearing the white ribbon, you are saying you won’t take part in violence yourself, but also you won’t condone it in your friends.

“It is about raising awareness, especially for males to be aware: a pledge where you are giving that support, acknowledging the fact that violence against women needs to be reduced.

“We have had more referrals coming in regarding domestic violence.”

Catherine Turner, the islands human rights co-ordinator, said: “Violence against women is not just domestic and it doesn’t have to be physical. It can be anything from name-calling right through to rape.

“It can be trying to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do, calling you names in public, not allowing you to go out – that happens a lot, in teenage relationships particularly, and if it starts there it becomes slamming violence later in life.

“It happens, but we don’t see it in the street: it happens in the home.

“A lot of women have told us it’s all right for their husband to force them to have sex. Well it’s not: that is rape.”

She said that in the UK, men had helped to get the message across that beating wives and girlfriends was not manly behaviour.

Christine said victims who reported incidents to social workers would be given support and advised that they could complain to the police, who had a procedure in place for dealing with abuse.”

Leaflets, advice and books are available in the human rights office, next to Marlene Yon’s shop in Main Street, Jamestown.

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