Dead. Killed by husbands, relatives and their partners... because they were women

Since 1981, 24 women have been murdered by men who were their husbands, lovers, and relatives. Is Malta dealing with a femicide problem?

According to statistics from the Crime Malta Observatory, 2017 saw a dip of 1% for the first time since 2007, with 1,272 cases of domestic violence reported
According to statistics from the Crime Malta Observatory, 2017 saw a dip of 1% for the first time since 2007, with 1,272 cases of domestic violence reported

In the past three months alone, four women have died, victims of domestic violence.

The latest was 33-year-old Lourdes Agius. And experts are calling for Malta to take a hard look around and assess the environment that continues to allow these senseless tragedies to happen.

Anthea D’Amico, the former chair of the Maltese Association of Social Workers, and currently a counsellor who deals with cases of domestic violence commented on the issue.

“People often underestimate the effects power and control can have on people. Ultimately at the route, abuse is about power and control; it’s the way abusive individuals gain and continue to maintain their control over victims. These tactics are usually used to inflict physiological, physical, sexual, or even financial abuse.”

According to statistics from the Crime Malta Observatory, 2017 saw a dip of 1% for the first time since 2007, with 1,272 cases of domestic violence reported.

Regardless of the dip, this still points to a 180% increase between 2008 which saw 450 reported cases, and 2017’s previously mentioned figure.

Prof. Saviour Formosa explained that the dip could be due to stabilisation. With numbers rising every year, stabilization was inevitable.

As it stands, domestic violence remains one of the most reported areas, higher than bodily harm, which in 2017 had 879 reported cases.

“People who face abusive behaviour during childhood are more at risk to end up in  abusive relationships later on down the line,” D'Amico said.

“However, it’s not just abuse in the traditional sense. Harsh or aggressive parenting styles can leave children more vulnerable. Therefore, schools, need to set a zero tolerance policy in the way they tackle this sort of behaviour. Its important for children to feel there is a safe space for them to go within the community. The school must act as a mediator of sorts between the parent and the child, thus giving them a unique opportunity to educate not only pupils, but the community itself, such as introducing alternative methods like non-aggressive solutions to problems.”

This is why the community plays such an essential role, not only in regards to fighting abuse at its core, but to spread information that help is readily available.

Lara Dimitrijevic, director of Woman’s Rights foundation said the country is  still scratching the surface of the problem. “Change needs to starts with the community. It’s already difficult for abuse victims to come forward. This is partly due to the level of shame victims feel, often having suffered through abuse for lengthy periods of time. So removing the stigma surrounding abuse from society is important. We need to work harder to change the culture that allows it to happen.”

Change and awareness is the clear message the WRF hoped to send when they marched through Valletta on Saturday. “Femicide is preventable, if we get serious about it,” Dimitrijevic said.

According to D’Amico, a way forward is to create specialised units within communities. Here the government will need to play a vital role. “For it has a duty to provide specialized care to victims, which will need to include counsellors with experience and training in this area. The government will also need to provide more expensive training to police offers, who are often the first port of call for victims. The most important thing however is that help is available to everyone regardless of nationality or status.”

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