DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STILL THE SILENT CRIME FOR PACIFIC WOMEN

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SECRETARIAT OF THE PACIFIC COMMUNITY (SPC) Noumea, New Caledonia Suva, Fiji Islands

NEWS RELEASE May 21, 2000

An English language workshop for Francophone women has delved into the ugly reality of the Pacific's 'silent' crime -- domestic violence.

Ten women from across New Caledonia ended their English Language workshop Saturday morning. In a week of tackling domestic violence as their workshop theme, they visited a Noumea-based Woman's shelter, interviewed a wide range of women and men about domestic violence, and prepared individual presentations on their findings to the group.

The language-training workshop was initiated two years ago by the SPC's Pacific Women's Resource Bureau (PWRB) to give Francophone women confidence at regional events held in English. It often tackles a workshop theme to develop broad knowledge on issues of concern.

In a presentation by the PWRB's Communications Officer Lisa Williams, the participants heard that for many Pacific Islands countries, domestic violence remains the 'silent crime'.

She said that many Pacific Islands women and men still hold the view that violence within the home should remain unreported and unpunished especially in cases where those who are physically and emotionally abusing their families are also the breadwinners.

"Women and children in the Pacific are dying because of domestic violence, but getting an idea of how many is difficult. Often families and officials, for many reasons, will be reluctant to take up the right to seek justice for the crime that has been committed," she said.

Speaking from her experience as a media worker who has widely-traveled the region, Williams said that in many cases, women will often be under pressure to withdraw charges even if they do reach the courts.

"This makes the efforts of domestic violence workers and crisis groups so important, because they provide the knowledge and support that those in violent situations desperately need," she said.

The PWRB's work is centered on the Pacific Platform for Action, which lists Violence as one of 13 critical issues of concern for the people of the Pacific.

Contact: Lisa Leilani Williams Communications Officer Pacific Women's Resource Bureau Secretariat of the Pacific Community BP D5 -- 98848 Noumea Cedex New Caledonia Telephone: 687--26.20.00 Facsimile: 687--26.38.18 Direct Line: 687--26.01.57 E-mail: LisaW@spc.int  http://www.spc.int/women 

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