Cook Islands Council Of Women Launches Anti-Violence Campaign

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Report: 1/3 of women in Cooks experience sexual or physical violence

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, May 21, 2015) – The Cook Islands National Council of Women yesterday launched a campaign aimed at stamping out violence against women.

The Cook Islands National Women and Partners Advocacy to Action Campaign will be countrywide and is being resourced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs through the Gender Equality Project funded by Australia and New Zealand.

The campaign will begin by highlighting and giving wide publicity to the findings of the Cook Islands Family Health and Safety report entitled ‘Te Ata O Te Ngakau’ (Shadows of the heart).

This will be done through meetings with communities and island leaders and their organisations. Fact sheets and culturally-appropriate information will be shared to drive home the message to reduce/eliminate domestic violence.

It’s anticipated that the material developed will be integrated into the strategies and operational plans of front line agencies whose job it is to deal with family violence – like the women, church and community organisations, the police, the nurses and doctors, families who have experienced it and families that have been safe havens over the years; and traditional leaders.

The extremely frank and detailed Te Ata O Te Ngakau report doesn’t mince words. It found that nearly a third of all women in the Cook Islands who have been in partnerships, have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

Almost 30 per cent of women reported they had experienced physical violence from a partner.

An estimated 13% of women had experienced sexual violence including physically forced sexual intercourse; being afraid to say no to sexual intercourse because of what ‘he’ might do; and being forced to perform degrading or humiliating sexual acts.

By region, 44.9 per cent of women in the Southern Group Islands, 27.3 per cent in Rarotonga, and 23.0 per cent in the Northern Group Islands reported physical and/or sexual partner violence in their lifetime.

The Cook Islands National Council of Women president Vaine Wichman says more detailed findings will be presented at the meetings to be held around the country.

"We want our women and families to be safe, and we want the negative behaviours that have been highlighted by the report to be discussed and eliminated.

"We are a small close-knit community and it’s not OK for these behaviours to continue; and I believe we can do something about that."

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