Evarist Bartolo | Sunday, 08 February 2009

How many other ‘Josettes’ are suffering in silence?

She has now disappeared from the headlines and the attention of the media. For a few days most of the country was discussing and gossiping about the murder of Josette Scicluna who was murdered and mauled by 47 stab wounds by her former male friend in front of their traumatized child.
It could have been all avoided if the social worker’s recommendation to make him return to jail had been followed. A friend of mine told me: “How can our justice system fail society so badly. Something must be very wrong if society allows a defenseless woman to be tortured in that way notwithstanding the repeated reports to the police. Makes you wonder how many more women are out there suffering in silence with no one to defend them. It's too late now for Josette Scicluna but can't something be done to make it safer for the many other "Josettes" suffering in silence before it is too late? She had the courage to leave him but still it didn't save her because we as part of society failed her. I'm so sorry Josette.”
This friend sent me a poem by Paulette Kelly I would like to share with you:

I got flowers today.
I got flowers today.
It wasn’t my birthday
or any special day.
We had our first argument last night,
and he said a lot of cruel things
that really hurt me.
I know he is sorry
and didn’t mean the things he said
because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today.
It wasn’t our anniversary
or any other special day.
Last night, he threw me into a wall
and started to choke me.
It seemed like a nightmare.
I couldn’t believe it was real.
I know he must be sorry
because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today,
and it wasn’t Mother’s Day
or any other special day.
Last night, he beat me up again.
If I leave him, what will I do?
How will I take care of my kids?
What about money?
I’m afraid of him and scared to leave.
But I know he must be sorry
because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today.
Today was a very special day.
It was the day of my funeral.
Last night, he finally killed me.
If only I had gathered enough courage
and strength to leave him,
I would not have gotten flowers today.

There are many shortcomings in the structures set up to save women like Josette. The Domestic Violence Unit within ‘Appogg’ needs more social workers. The Commission on Domestic Violence set up nearly three years ago has been demanding more social workers from government but the social workers have not been sent and it has got to the stage where they are putting everyone on a waiting list.
What sense does it make to organize media campaigns encouraging women to 'come for help, you don't need to be going through this, you deserve better' and then not have the service to give them? There is a service, but because those providing it are so severely over-stretched that they simply cannot cope with those who seek their help.
There is a need for more psychologists to be employed at the ‘Appogg’ Psychological Services Unit. Again, many women and children who would have experienced a trauma through their experience of, or witnessing of, domestic violence need serious help and they are not getting it. There is a mile-long waiting list for free psychological services. Women on social benefits are being referred to private psychological services for their children because waiting for the free service is not a realistic option. This is ridiculous as women on benefit cannot afford to pay a psychologist.
These inadequacies are extremely important and although the Commission on Domestic Violence has been clamouring for more social workers and psychologists for a long time, nothing has yet happened about them.
In order to combat or eliminate domestic violence we need to have the political will.
When she launched the Commission at the end of March three years ago Minister Dolores Cristina said: ““Domestic violence is a scourge which hits all societies, across all social fabric. Nobody is immune. From now on Malta has solid legislation in place which protects against this grievous act. The launching of the Commission on Domestic Violence here today is a concrete step towards the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act and a commitment on Government’s behalf towards a bettering of policies, legislation and services.”
So far government has not matched its words with deeds, as services are still inadequate. We must hold the government to account for this failure. As members of parliament we need to stand up and be counted on this issue
and give it the priority it deserves. Why should we wait till women are killed before people start to take notice? Hundreds, thousands of women out there are being abused every day. We can encourage them to come out of 'hiding' but then we need to be able to give them the help they need otherwise it is the cruellest form of deception.


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