Surge in domestic violence complaints in Marshall Islands
More awareness and greater police powers appear to have fuelled a sudden increase in the number of restraining orders that have been issued against men in the Marshall Islands.
More awareness and greater police powers appear to have fueled a sudden increase in the number of restraining orders that have been issued against men in the Marshall Islands.
The nine complaints of domestic violence filed by women in the High Court this year far exceeds the two complaints filed over the previous three years.
Six of those nine have been filed over the past two months.
Our correspondent Giff Johnson told Bridget Tunnicliffe since parliament passed a law on domestic violence two years ago there's been heightened awareness in the community.
GIFF JOHNSON: And also the national police force now has several women police officers on the force who have been trained to respond to domestic violence cases and this has helped in terms of walking women through the process of filling out the complaint, getting a medical examination so they have evidence of any physical abuse or physical assaults to present to the court. And the fact that the High Court acts really quickly on these and just takes almost immediate action by holding hearings very quickly so I think women are seeing that they are able to get a result from doing it.
BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: And another important aspect of that law was that it included a "no-drop" policy, explain that.
GJ: A "no-drop policy" means a couple of things; one is that police are supposed to pursue cases no matter what the person complaining about it does, even if they want to dismiss it; and it's also supposed to mean that the government's attorney general pursues complaints even in a situation where the woman bringing the assault charge says she wants to dismiss it. Now the interesting thing is that most of these complaints which are being brought in by women on their own, most of these are not being followed up with criminal charges. That reflects that women have generally not pursued these cases beyond simply getting the initial restraining order against their husbands or boyfriends which indicates that maybe that was the extent to which the women wanted to pursue it and it also may simply reflect life in a small community where it's very difficult to bring actions like this to begin with, let alone to march it through to the prosecution stage.
BT: But this "no-drop" policy would mean in a potentially serious case, even without the woman wanting to take it further, the police could potentially.
GJ: Yes, they could and what the police department officials are telling us is that they do maintain case files opened so that if a woman comes in once and maybe the prosecutors just don't think they are able to prosecute it, maybe there isn't enough evidence or whatever the problem might be, that they maintain the files open. If a woman comes back a second or third time they're going to continue collecting evidence to try to bring it to a level that could go to prosecution.
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