Programme takes aim at domestic violence
Help is, at last, on the way for the victims of domestic abuse in Bermuda.Thanks to a grant received from the Bank of Bermuda's Centennial Trust, the Women's Resource Centre (WRC) has announced the launch of its new Family Restoration Programme."This arose out of the Task Force on child abuse which revealed serious deficits in services for assisting parents,'' says WRC chairman Penny Dill."The situation at present is that if a child is in foster care or some other kind of protective care as a result of family violence, that child is returned to parents who have received no counselling or training."In other words, they are sent back to face exactly the same problems. Now, with this funding, we will be able to hire a full-time counsellor who will set up and run the programme. This will help parents attain the stipulations set out by Child and Family Services for reunification with their children.'' Advertising for the new position begins next month and Mrs. Dill hopes the successful candidate will be in place by the end of the year."The Women's Resource Centre is a vital organisation,'' says David Lang, Vice President, Trust Manager and trustee of the Bank of Bermuda's Centennial Trust. "In particular, it undertakes a lot of advocacy on behalf of womens' issues and, with the support of our Trust, will now be able to introduce its Family Restoration Programme.'' Funding will continue for three years.Mr. Lang says the WRC's project fulfills the Trust's objectives of supporting constructive change and fostering co-operation within the community.Explaining that the new post will include liaison with the Department of Child and Family Services, courts, and clients who may not be in an immediate crisis situation, Mrs. Dill says that the beneficiaries of the new initiative will be women (16 years of age and over), women whose children who are in protective custody, survivors of sexual assault or victims of physical assault, women who are `stalking' victims and women who are in rehabilitation programmes for substance abuse, as well as the families or partners of those directly involved.Referring to recently released figures which indicate that physical assaults against women have increased sharply over the past year, Mrs. Dill points out that part of the reason for this may be that more people are taking advantage of services offered by the WRC. "The taboo on speaking out on domestic violence is still there but, at the same time, people are now more inclined to seek help before they find themselves in a physically violent situation. So a lot of people are coming here for psychological or emotional support.'' This trend, says Mrs. Dill, has led to an increased diversification in services. "Honor Desmond Tetlow is our court advocate who deals with things like protection orders for custody issues or stalkers. But the complication arises when women have to stay in relationships because they have nowhere to go, so we are then dealing with things like economic dependency. It becomes a vicious cycle because then they have no money to hire a lawyer. This is where Honor comes in. We now see a certain urgency in working on a strategic plan for the next three years to provide services to the community, to see which areas we can expand -- as with the hiring of a full-time counsellor -- but also to find out how we can delegate some of these problems.'' Another very important area for expansion, says Mrs. Dill, is a `victim support scheme', for the victims of all crime. "This was first brought up by Deputy Commissioner Mylod and we were hoping to go ahead with it but, to date, we are still working with various departments to try and get this very vital initiative pushed forward.''
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