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Gender-Based Violence Unit head Supt (acting) Claire Guy-Alleyne.

Anna-Lisa Paul

Even though the Gender Based Violence Unit (GBVU) of the Police Service has recorded an increase in incidents during the past month, acting Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne says it may not necessarily mean more violent episodes are occurring– but that victims and survivors may now be more comfortable reporting events that have been taking place all along.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Guy-Alleyne, who also heads the Child Protection Unit, said, “We have increased reports relative to the Gender Based Violence Unit when we compare the statistics to last year’s for the same period this year.”

However, she added: “This may not necessarily be a bad thing.”

Pressed to say how and why, Guy-Alleyne explained, “Last year, the unit was launched by the Commissioner of Police in January and shortly after that, we had the pandemic.”

Indicating they had worked hard to create an encouraging atmosphere in terms of training and sensitizing officers on how to deal with such issues, she said it was one “where survivors and victims feel comfortable to come forward to have reports made and investigated where confidentiality is uppermost.”

For the period January to April 2020 – 781 reports were received; while for the period January to April 2021 – 1,132 reports were received.

Declaring domestic violence to be a pervasive problem globally that can occur within any culture and social class, Guy-Alleyne assured the GBVU operates, “A robust case management system where reports upon receipt, are thoroughly investigated immediately and the survivor or victim is guided through the process from the making of the report and the court process thereafter.”

Reaffirming their zero tolerance approach where arrests will lead to charges being laid against perpetrators, she added, “We even apply for protection orders for the survivors or victims to assist them.”

Admitting some domestic violence victims may be unable to report incidents to the GBVU due to be being confined with their perpetrators during the lock-down, Guy-Alleyne said there were various mediums that can be used to reach the TTPS.

These include 555; 999; on-line reporting; the TTPS app; and any police station.

Asked what was the main factor driving incidents during this lock-down which began on May 3, she said, “Most of the reports we have centre around the cell-phone where one spouse will find the other sending or receiving text messages that are inappropriate and can cause a conflict in the home and then violence occurs.”

“These incidents are occurring with both male and female victims.”

Meanwhile, general manager of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Sabrina Mowlah-Baksh said while there has not been a significant increase in the number of incidents being reported, “people are reaching out to us on a daily basis for additional support that goes beyond our counselling services.”

Confirming people were appealing for help in the form of care packages, toiletries and food hampers – she said some persons continued to seek safe shelter as they are experiencing domestic abuse.

Of the seven shelters allocated by civil society for such victims, Mowlah-Baksh said only four are currently operational with the lone-state facility being completely filled at this time.

Indicating their client numbers are constantly changing, she advised persons to contact 800-SAVE if they need help.

Attributing the slight increase in the incidents being reported to victims being forced to co-habit with their attackers so they are carefully monitored – thereby reducing the opportunity to request help, Mowlah-Baksh revealed, “We did have persons reaching out but we were told they would have to get back to us regarding when is a good time for us to speak with the victims.”