Jamaica Gleaner / The country’s only shelter for battered women will be closed shortly to undergo refurbishing, even as the nation grapples with a raft of gender-based violence cases and murder/suicides which have ripped families apart.

The Crisis Shelter operated by non-governmental organisation Woman Incorporated is the only facility in the island providing a safe haven for women living in fear, despite several promises by government representatives over the years to establish three shelters for women in need of protection.

But the facility, which was opened in 1987, is now in dire need of repairs and is accepting only emergency cases.

According to outreach counsellor at the shelter, Angela Hall-Ingram, they are awaiting a date for the start of the refurbishing exercise, which is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under its COMET 11 programme.

“We probably will be out for about six months is what I’m being told. But in the meantime, if it is that there is somebody who desperately needs to be sheltered, depending on the situation, we still offer accommodation within the time frame that is allowed,” said Hall-Ingram.

“Once it (refurbishing) starts we won’t be accommodating anybody,” added Hall-Ingram, as she noted that the last client left in June.

shelter capacity The shelter is able to accommodate only eight battered women and any children they might have, at any one time.

Generally, women are given only two weeks at the shelter. However, allowance can be made for those whose cases are extreme. Each of the women also benefits from counselling services, and efforts are often made to include their abusers in these sessions.

“The shelter is really for abused women, meaning women who are residing within domestic violence. So let’s say the woman’s life is in danger or she is under threat from the spouse … or she is made homeless temporarily as a result of the violence, then we will accommodate her,” Hall-Ingram explained.

“The maximum, because it’s an emergency facility, is really 14 days. However, depending on the case, we sometimes go beyond that time, so we assess while the person is there and see what’s happening, and then we will extend the time, but each case is assessed on its own and then we make that determination.”

Woman Incorporated also offers a 24-hour hot line service and crisis counselling, which will still continue during the refurbishing exercise.

Gender-based violence continues unabated, and there have been several cases of murder/suicides in recent times.

seven cases of suicides According to the 2015 Jamaica Economic and Social Survey produced by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, there were seven cases of suicides last year that were linked to domestic disputes.

Data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force Statistics Unit shows that 116 female homicides were reported in 2015, up from 100 in 2014.

Meanwhile, sexual violence against women and girls remains very high, especially among women 24 years and under.

In 2014, females 24 years old and younger accounted for 92 per cent of all sexual violence cases, and 89 per cent in 2013.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange has vowed to work with civil organisations and the business sector to combat domestic violence, which she has labelled a “social ill”.

“The magnitude of the ongoing violence against women and children in our country is cause for alarm,” she said during her presentation in the Sectoral Debate two weeks ago.

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