Wednesday 20 May 2020 (Honiara, Solomon Islands) The Solomon Islands government has declared a lockdown period from 6pm Wednesday May 20th to 6am Friday May 22nd, 2020. Members of the national SAFENET domestic violence referral network welcome this important public health measure at the same time as raising concerns that there may be an increase in domestic violence during this time.
Seif Ples, a crisis service for victims and survivors of gender-based violence, rape and sexual assault, has already seen many more people calling in to the national domestic violence helpline. Seif Ples centre manager, Falu Maesugea said the centre noted a huge increase, with 890 genuine callers in April calling to seek information & referrals on domestic violence, rape and COVID-19.
A sharp increase in cases of domestic violence has been observed in other countries where lockdown measures have been enacted, and there are concerns that this might also occur in Solomon Islands. The lockdown might increase tension in families as well as social isolation, and also make it difficult for survivors to seek help.
A recently established Gender Based Violence in Emergencies committee, coordinated by Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, has been working hard to ensure that essential support services are still open and available during COVID-19 preparedness and response phases. All national SAFENET agencies have now received specialist training from Ministry of Health and Medical Services on COVID-19, to enable each agency to develop health and safety precautions relevant to the risks posed by COVID-19.
National SAFENET coordinator, Miss Juliana Zutu, states that “during these 36 hours of lockdown, crisis services such as police and hospital are still open but for other gender-based violence support, please call SAFENET Toll free line 132 for assistance.”
While the 132 helpline is available, a clear message from SAFENET is that domestic violence and gender-based violence are everyone’s responsibility, especially during this challenging time when we need to be working together as a community to support each other. One important step that we can all take during the lockdown period, is to call your family, friends and neighbours, and check if they are okay. If you hear anything that makes you concerned that someone is experiencing violence, call the police on 999.
If you are worried that you might experience violence during the lockdown period, SAFENET advises that you should think about your safety plan now. If you want help to make a safety plan, call the Family Support Centre on 26999/20619. During lockdown, if you are experiencing violence, you can call the police, go to the hospital, or call the #132 hotline. If you are fearful for your safety, you don't need to remain trapped in the home with an abuser – you have the right to ask for help.
Remember to closely follow all Ministry of Health and Medical Services guidelines and “protect yourself and protect others from Coronavirus”.
Important Toll-Free Numbers
Police – 999
Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Family Violence Office - 20023
SAFENET Domestic Violence Helpline – 132
Family Support Centre – 26999/20619
Child Welfare Helpline – 20569/7522844