[WATCH] Victim support inspector: Psychological abuse is reported more than physical abuse

On Xtra last night, Inspector Silvana Gafa, who runs the police Victim Support Unit and chairperson of the Commission Against Domestic Violence Joe Gerada discussed the many faces of domestic violence

Psychological abuse is reported to the police more often than physical abuse, according to Inspector Silvana Gafa who runs the police Victim Support Unit.

Gafa, was a guest on current affairs programme Xtra, together with the chairperson of the Commission Against Domestic Violence, where she explained that pyschological abuse was much hade

Domestic violence, explained Gafa, can be physical, psychological, financial or sexual. She added that while cases of pyschological abuse were more common, they were much harder to prove in court, with cases of physical abuse being understandably much easier to verify. 

She stressed however that society could not accept any disrespect or violence against its citizens.

Both Gerada and Gafa stressed that while it was true that the majority of cases of domestic violence involved women, it was by no means a women's issue and one anyone could face in their lifetime.

“There is no single face of domestic violence… it can happen to any man, women, elder, or child,” Gafa said.

Gerada pointed out that while violence against men was also prevalent. “Abuse against men is real, but men find it harder to talk about it.”

Gafa, on her part, said that unfortunately, people often contact the police as their last resort and when they can no longer control the situation when in truth, she said,  “domestic violence happens at the place you are meant to feel most safe.”

Commission Against Domestic Violence chairman Joe Gerada
Commission Against Domestic Violence chairman Joe Gerada

Gerada said that nowadays, with further education on the subject, people were learning that they did not have to live under oppressive environments and were speaking out about their abusive situations.

Moreover, he said that there were fewer reports of domestic violence in Gozo, which can be attributed to the island being more aware of the small environment. “There is nothing wrong with reporting domestic violence and speaking out,” Gerada said. 

He added that with more education, people better understood the difference between discipline and violence. He said that while discipline was important, it was not equal to violence. “In truth, if you are disciplined, you would not even consider violence,” he said.

Using children as an example, he said that while in the past it was normal practice to beat children, it was no longer acceptable and was in fact illegal.

Turning to repeat offenders, Gerada said he believed they should be given jail time, while first time offenders should be given the opportunity to reform themselves, adding that some people's behaviour could be changed with the right guidance. “There have been aggressors who went through therapy and reunited with their families after they learnt better ways.”

In fact, he said, most victims did not want to leave their husbands, but rather wanted the violence to end. However, he also admitted that it was sometimes the case that the victim was reluctant to change their life.

Gafa explained that aggressors only faced jail time if found guilty of violence a second time or if protection orders were breached, clearly showing they had no interest in changing their behaviour. She also said that in cases were the aggressor could not be reformed, they should be the ones to leave the household, and not the victim.

She said it was most often the victim who was removed from the house, generally as a precaution in light of a serious threat.

Gerada also said that further work needed to be done to address the phenomenon, including more intensive education campaigns in schools, an increased number of social workers, more psychologists and shelters, and better relationships between the police and social workers, with the aim of facilitating the prosecution of perpetrators of domestic violence. 

Both said that anyone who was a victim of domestic violence or any other form of abuse should call 179 as soon as possible.

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