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Sexual violence "all our business"

Sexual violence

Friday 16 September 2022

Sexual violence "all our business"

Friday 16 September 2022


Deputy Rob Prow recalled the lyrics of a hit from the 1980s as he successfully led proposals through the States' Assembly on work to combat sexual violence.

All 39 States' members who were present agreed to incorporate sexual violence and the development of a sexual assault referral centre into the island's domestic abuse strategy.

A sexual assault referral centre provides a safe space and dedicated care for anyone who has been raped, sexually assaulted or abused.

"A sexual assault referral centre will be piloted from 2023, with work starting immediately to progress this," said the Committee for Home Affairs in its policy letter to the States.

sexual_assault_support.jpg

Pictured: A sexual assault referral centre is viewed as an important step forward in supporting victims of sexual abuse and violence. 

Laying the proposals before the Assembly, Deputy Prow, the President of the Committee, quoted American singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega:

"My name is Luka. I live on the second floor. I live upstairs from you. Yes I think you've seen me before.

"If you hear something late at night. Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight. Just don't ask me what it was. Just don't ask me what it was.

"They only hit until you cry. And after that you don't ask why. You just don't argue anymore. You just don't argue anymore.

"Yes I think I'm ok. I walked into the door again. If you ask that's what I'll say. And it's not your business anyway.

"I guess I'd like to be alone. With nothing broken, nothing thrown. Just don't ask me how I am. Just don't ask me how I am.

"My name is Luka. I live on the second floor."

Deputy Prow contrasted the lyrics to what he hoped was Guernsey's approach towards sexual violence.

Suzanne_Vega_and_Deputy_Rob_Prow.jpg

Pictured: The words of Suzanne Vega's hit song - "just don't ask me what it was...it's not your business anyway" - are not the Guernsey way, according to Deputy Rob Prow.

"I believe that in these islands we have a good record of listening and asking the right questions. I believe everybody in this Assembly - yes, everybody - values the importance of keeping our population as safe and secure as we possibly can and has a better record of doing this than in many jurisdictions," said Deputy Prow.

"But be under no illusion - there is still much work to be done - much more. It will cost money and more resource, but I'm sure, contrary to the words of the song, that we will all make this our business.

"The domestic abuse strategy is an ongoing programme of work that commenced in 2009. Its vision is to meet the needs of all victims and survivors of domestic abuse through equitable, accessible and effective services.

"This iteration of the strategy has been broadened to cover sexual abuse and violence. This was in response to a 2015 [States'] resolution to investigate establishing a violence against women and girls strategy."

Deputy Sue Aldwell, the Committee’s lead on domestic abuse, spoke of historic accounts of abuse and violence locally stretching back to 1855 and explained how the revised strategy had been developed. Her speech was met with applause from some members.

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Pictured: The Committee for Home Affairs' policy letter set out statistics on reports of domestic abuse going back to the early 2000s.

There are hundreds of incidents of domestic abuse reported to police every year in the Bailiwick. In the five years from 2016-2020, there were nearly 3,400 incidents reported, more than a third of which were repeat incidents.

"National research within the crime survey for England and Wales indicates that one in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse," said the Committee. 

"This suggests a level of parity between the sexes. However, what these figures conceal is the fact that the 47% of males experienced a single incident, with an average of seven incidents per victim, compared with 28% of female victims experiencing a single incident, with an average of 20 incidents per victim. Female victims of male perpetrators are more likely to be repeatedly abused, seriously harmed or murdered."

In the Bailiwick, women were the victims in 77% of reported incidents last year and in 95% of high risk cases. 

Deputy Sue Aldwell

Pictured: Deputy Sue Aldwell leads on domestic abuse policy for the Committee for Home Affairs.

Several deputies and charities welcomed the publication of the Committee's proposals earlier this year and they were widely expected to be approved by the Assembly. 

The vote on the proposals was the first time that simultaneous electronic voting was used successful in the Assembly after attempts to use the new technology failed earlier in the meeting.

The vote was taken during the afternoon of 8 September, ahead of the announcement of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, hence the delay in publication. 

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