The killings of two women within one week in March 2017, both in circumstances which suggest the involvement of a spouse, has once again brought the issue of domestic violence to the fore of the minds of citizens. It is important at this point for all Saint Lucians, women in particular, to know the avenues available for their protection. My message to all is that you need not be afraid to speak out, because you are not alone.
Domestic violence is a serious issue is Saint Lucia. During the period January to December 2014, 353 cases were put before the courts out of which 241 were heard and a final decision was made. During the same period in the year 2015, a total of 592 applications were made to the Family Court for Orders under the Domestic Violence Act. There seems to be an increase in the number of incidents of domestic violence and, as such, it is important for persons who suffer domestic violence to have an idea of the measures in place for their protection.
The Domestic Violence Act defines domestic violence as:
“… any act of violence whether physical or verbal abuse perpetrated by a member of a household upon a member of the same household which causes or is likely to cause physical, mental or emotional injury or harm to the abused party or any other member of the household;”
The Domestic Violence Act aims to protect people from abuse in a family setting. The Act is designed to protect spouses, children and members of the household from abuse from other members of the household.
The term spouse includes common law spouses and former common law spouses and the term child also includes adopted children and children who share a household with the applicants.
The Court is entitled to make three types of orders under the Domestic Violence Act. They are: 1) a Protection Order 2) an Occupation Order and 3) a Tenancy Order. Each order serves a different purpose.
Protection Order: The Court will grant a Protection Order if it is satisfied that the person against whom it is sought has used or threatened to use violence or caused physical mental or emotional injury to a specified person and is likely to do it again.
A child can make an application for a Protection Order against a parent or other member of the household.
A Protection Order can prohibit the person against whom it is made from entering the house of a specified person or the area where it is located, their place of work or school, a specified place where the person happens to be, stalking, watching, following, calling or even speaking to a specified person in an manner which is of such nature and degree as to cause annoyance.
If the person against whom the Protection Order is made breaches the order he could face a fine of up to $5,000 or spend up to six months in prison.
Occupation Order : The Court has the power to make an Occupation Order that a specified person be excluded from the household to which the other relates. The order may also include arrangements for financial support for a member or members of the household.
The Court will only grant this order if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the protection of a specified person or in the best interest of a child of the household.
Tenancy Order: The Court may order that a person be made a tenant of a specified property. The effect of the order is that the applicant becomes the tenant of the premises and gains the rights afforded to the Respondent. In theory the person who receives the order can attain exclusive possession of the property.
Anyone seeking help can go the Family Court at 1 High Street, Castries, call the Ministry of Justice on (758) 452 5475 or go to the nearest police station to make a report.
If you are being abused by someone who is not your spouse and does not live in your household, then although you may not fall into the category of persons entitled to apply to the Courts under the domestic violence act, any person may make a report to the police station for assault, threats, harassment and a number of other offenses. It is the duty of police officers to investigate the issue.
Please don’t wait!