Violence study launched as domestic abuse cases increase
A groundbreaking study on violence against women has been welcomed by a women’s charity amid reports of an increase in incidents.
Laurie Shiell, the executive director of the Centre Against Abuse, said the charity had noticed a “sharp increase” in the number of domestic abuse reports in recent years.
Ms Shiell added anonymous surveys this year by Bermudian postgraduate sociology student Catherine Cooke would provide “a valuable source of information for years to come”.
Ms Shiell said: “This will be the first of its kind that I know of – she is making a bit of history.
“It’s anonymous and she has worked very hard to make sure it is sensitive.
“The people I have spoken with that shared with her stated how respectful she was.”
Ms Cooke said the confidential surveys would collect a cross-section of information that was “basically non-existent in Bermuda” at present.
Ms Cooke, a master’s student at Cambridge University’s sociology department, said the island’s lack of statistics had hindered the formulation of “bold policies required to combat gendered violence”.
The study came against a backdrop of soaring numbers of abuse cases at the centre, which reported 171 last year – up from 160 in 2019, and 91 in 2018.
The charity, which deals with a range of crises from domestic abuse to sexual assault, processed 50 protection orders last year, 35 in 2019 and 15 in 2018.
Families placed in safe houses were reported at 37 for 2020, four for 2019 and three in 2018.
Ms Shiell said the rise was “frightful” but a stark reminder the increasing numbers who needed help.
She added: “The more people we can get doing her surveys, the better the statistics will be reflecting a cross section of our population.
“We don’t have this level of statistics, so we were excited when she made contact with us.
“We can’t do everything ourselves.”
Ms Shiell said there had also been a surge in reports of electronic threats and harassment.
She added: “It’s not like the Covid-19 pandemic last year started it - it just increased the exposure, where people were unable to remove themselves from these situations.”
Ms Cooke said she had grown up in Bermuda when domestic violence was “whispered about but rarely meaningfully discussed”.
She added: “One thing that comes up is how small Bermuda is, which makes it very difficult either to physically get away from someone or for the issues to get talked about.”
Ms Cooke said her two anonymous online surveys, which went live in January, had attracted about 100 responses.
One is for women and the other for “those of any gender who know someone who is a survivor, to gather information, particularly about the impact of Bermudian culture, on gendered violence”.
She said those who wanted to discuss the topic further could e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The statistics will be used for her Cambridge dissertation later this year on “violence against women in Bermuda, including, but not limited to, sexual assault, domestic violence and psychological abuse”.
Ms Cooke told organisations such as Family Centre and the Employee Assistance Programme about the surveys and asked The Royal Gazette to share links.
She said the aim was to build a set of statistics that would give an accurate picture of the scale of the problems.
Ms Cooke said the surveys would each take about 15 minutes to finish.
Participants must be at least 18 and fill out a consent form and she emphasised the study had been given ethics approval by Cambridge University.
Ms Cooke said: “I’m just trying to create a starting point.
“There’s a problem in Bermuda and we really have no specific underlying data. Without statistics it’s difficult to have open community dialogue or justify policy change.”
She added she planned to complete the work by June.
Ms Cooke said: “Ultimately I hope to come back to Bermuda and apply what I have learned – hopefully at some point I will be able to work in a non-profit on the island.”
The survey for survivors is available at: https://cambridge.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3t3nvOkVrFJyRtX
There is also a “friends and family” survey at: https://cambridge.eu.qualtrics.com/.../SV_1YRrQEPEkEF7Kst
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