During the trial lockdown our response systems should also be tested for those that may experience domestic violence.
“I have suffered for some time, and finally decided to walk away from the man I thought would provide for me and our kids,” said Marie, a 44-year-old mother of two young daughters.
She said the abuse started when she worked for a wholesale shop in Honiara, her interactions with work colleagues and customers at the shop infuriated her partner.
“He would come to my place of work and pretend to buy things, I know he was watching me, so I sometimes did not talk to customers I serve.
“He would accuse me when I get home, and say that I am attracted to my work colleagues or customers, and I just got angry.
“That was the first time he hit me, and I was just shocked, he dragged me by my hair and pushed me outside of the house. I cried and neighbors came and spoke to my husband, I was so scared.
“I spent the night with a cousin of mine who lived nearby, and decided to stay there for a while. He called me and asked me to return, my first daughter was only 3 years old at the time so I returned, just because of her.”
She said she quit her job and stayed at home to look after the kids, but her husband’s behavior did not change. He would still return home and accuse her of things, took away her phone and told her not to leave the house.
“I was like a prisoner, he was not violent anymore but very abusive, everyday he would say bad things, I was never sure what he was so angry about. He was the one that always came home late but still he accuses me. It was a very bad time in my life, just staying in fear.
“My sister told me to leave, but I just couldn’t because I did not have an income, so she got me a job where she was working, and convinced me to leave. I finally left him with our kids, and told him that this time its for good, and that was two years ago.”
Marie says that she knows of other women that suffer in silence and fears for their safety if they are locked down with their partners.
She says that the trial lockdown should also test the systems established for those that may suffer domestic violence. She says from her experience couples sometimes avoid each other just so that they avoid confrontation, a lockdown could lead to violence.
Marie’s concerns are real, domestic violence experienced during lockdowns is real and is well documented the world over – organizations that deal with domestic violence say they are getting more requests for help than ever before and there are horrific stories of extreme abuse.
They say from accounts the abuse began before the pandemic but spiralled as people found themselves confined at home, and families faced increased stress due to economic instability, illness and overall uncertainty.
The Solomon Islands Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau is encouraging those that experience domestic violence during the lockdown to contact the police.
“If you are experiencing domestic violence during the lockdown and fearful for your safety, it is important that you seek help. If you are unable to call, please seek assistance from police or emergency patrols or go to your nearest police checkpoints and ask for help.”
Mr Mangau says, “It is important to call your family, friends and neighbours, and check if they are okay during the lockdown. Make sure to check on people you know who might be more vulnerable, including people with disabilities. If you hear anything that makes you concerned that someone is experiencing violence, please seek help.”
Sadly, the Solomon Islands has one of the highest rates of family and sexual violence (FSV) in the world with 64% of women aged 15–49 have reported physical and/or sexual abuse by a partner. Such figures are concerning, and should be in the minds of those in charge of the trial lockdown.
If you or someone you know is a victime of domestic violence, you must call the police on 23666 or toll free 999. You can also call SAFENET on 132, or the family support centre on 20619.