Women’s Desk St. Maarten: Relational violence spiked since Irma

PHILIPSBURG--Safe Haven, St. Maarten’s only shelter for battered women, has recorded a spike in calls from women seeking refuge from relational violence since the passing of Hurricane Irma.
This startling announcement came Monday from Women’s Desk, the Government agency in charge of women’s affairs.
Adding to the spike and cause for concern is the number of women who sought shelter in National Institute for Professional Advancement (NIPA), a hurricane shelter, due to relational problems after Irma, said Women’s Desk in its message to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, November 25.
Citing a case highlighted in the press of a woman who was being treated by paramedics after being abused by her partner, the agency said, “All these incidences are indications that we do have a challenge with relational violence and persons do not know how to respond in cases of relational conflict.”
This does not mean that the violence did not exist before the hurricane, the agency added. However, after Irma, the displacement of people, in particular women and children, and services not functioning optimally, “places women and children at greater risk,” said Women’s Desk, adding that the aftereffects of such destruction are surmountable and can contribute to the rise or increase of social ills, with domestic violence being one.
The Gender and Disaster Network highlighted that domestic violence, also referred to as relational violence, is a social fact contributing to the vulnerability of women in disaster. These women are considered a very vulnerable population who are less visibly at risk than poor women, refugees, single mothers, widows, senior or disabled women.
“It simply means that we do have a challenge with relational violence and persons’ tolerance levels as well as their ability to deal with conflict and resolve conflict situations in a more amicable and humane manner,” said Women’s Desk.
As a community, there needs to be greater effort on the part of all involved to stamp out the surge of domestic violence in St. Maarten, the agency said. “As we observe this period, let us be more attentive to those families, individuals, women, girls, even the perpetrator who seems to be struggling and are challenged by violence. Let us be the society that cares, leaving no one behind.”
November 25 marks the beginning of 16 days of activism that end on December 10 World Human Rights Day. The 2017 theme is "Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls.” 
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