Thursday, July 15, 2010

Anti Domestic Violence Project in Maumere

A struggle against “culture of violence”

SILVIA (it is not the real name) was still quite and did not want to talk to anybody; she just locked herself inside a shared bed room and only opened the door when a sister invite her for eating together or when it was time for bathing. Among with other victims of domestic violence, Silvia has been boarded in SSpS monastery for months. She was rape by her own father. It was done regularly when her mother was working in the local market selling vegetables. She was too afraid to report it to her mother since her father threatened to kill her with jackknife if she reported it to anybody. Event if she shared her problem with her mother, she would get anger by her own mother. She knew that there was similar incest cases happened in her village. One of her best friend in the village was beaten by both her mother and father in separate event when her friend reported to her mother that his father already raped her for several times. Silvia’s case was and is not the only domestic violence cases handled by Caritas Maumere, there are many of others Silvia that need further help by anyone.

“We got many violence reports from our volunteer based in parishes; violence against women, violence against children and domestic violence. We used to follow up some of them since we have limited resources,” Heny Hungan told us when we were in Maumere for monitoring the project. She is the legal and medical assistance coordinator of TRUK-F and together with Caritas Maumere is trying their best to take care victims of domestic violence like Silvia. TRUK-F is the Flores volunteer team for humanitarian that was established by congregation of SVD and SSpS during “Timor case” when massive and systematize violence (killing, rape, burning infrastructure and houses, etc.) occurred just after the election in Timor Timur, the former province of Indonesia, creating hundred thousands of family became internally displaced person. TRUK-F together with Caritas Maumere then continue their service to advocate and serve the victims of violence (women, girls and children) mainly in Flores Island where several of violence cases are easy to be happened in almost entire island. Since 2008, Caritas Germany has been supporting Caritas Maumere on building the safe house to be used as temporarily home for the victims. The assistance given is also including medical & trauma healing service, legal accompany, training and course for the victims and awareness campaign and information against domestic violence and trafficking.

It is not easy for Caritas Maumere to manage the situation. “Our team is often seen as the enemy of the family. When we manage our door to door campaign, there were strong rejections from other family members, especially the men. Don’t interfere to our family business! They warned us like that,” shared Dafrosa Keytimu (Osa) who are traveling a lot from village to village accompanied by their volunteers to conduct the anti domestic violence campaign . It was a heavy journey for them since the road condition to villages is too bad and very often they have to use public transportation. And event when the campaign was done on groups, there were rare men joint in. In Flores, patriarchal culture is still presence very strong and influence in all sector of live. Men are really acted as a king in the family. In this case, women are seen as property that can be sold and must follow men’s opinion since they are belonging to men. “To attract men participate in the campaign, we involve parish priest as our campaigner. We also played documentary film about women and anti domestic violence. Several priests who already joint in our team also delivered speech about right’s equality between men and women during Monday mass,” told Osa.

Besides getting the report on domestic violence cases directly from the parish based volunteers, from other family member, or during campaign session in villages, Caritas Maumere also actively monitor the cases based on data given by police and other institution who are dealing with this issue. Caritas Maumere then registering the victim’s identity in their form continued by preliminary counseling to get short story about the violence case in chronology in ethical way (secret, empathy, victim’s empowerment). After that, the team will do screening to distinguish the case into certain type and value its impact to victims themselves. Once the victims aware with the situation, the team will offer them to choose the type of resolution; whether litigation or non litigation resolution. Caritas Maumere then will continue its assistance through the chosen resolution made by victims themselves or based on recommendation from the family who would like to take the responsibility also.

As case’s example of Silvia, she managed to go for litigation case. After further litigation process accompanied by Caritas Maumere, finally the judge punished her father with eleven years punishment in prison. So Silvia won the case but she still could not forget the “past accident” in her life. She even still has to treat her “unwanted baby”. At the beginning she wanted to do abortion, but the team of Caritas Maumere was prefer to be in “pro life” side than in “pro choice” one. “It was not an easy job for us, we tried our best to convince the victims and encourage them to continue their life. We often also involved their other family members on discussing of whom should be responsible for the baby. Many of family members decided to adopt the baby. In this case, we have to prepare the legal status of the baby also,” explained Sister Eustochia , the TRUK-F coordinator, referring to the reason why the team prefers to be in “pro life” side. As it consequence, the sisters also accommodate “unwanted babies” in their monastery or share it responsible with other orphanage / foundation who has special service on nurturer baby and children.

Yayasan Nativity is one of orphanage that I ever visited during my trip to Maumere. Although it has limited capacity, but all three lay person women who are really dedicated on caring baby and children there are able to manage more than twenty baby and children under five. “We need more baby and children clothes at this time,” told one of the women I met.

Very often, victims such as Silvia find herself in dilemma. When the baby was born, they could not live anymore together with their parents, so Silvia and her baby then was accommodate by her grandmother. The other victims’ then living with their aunty or force to move to another island to avoid a feeling of ashamed since the case was really embarrassing for the victim herself. Unfortunately, others also see it as curse or disgrace for the family.

“The accompaniment to victims of domestic violence is a must, but a continuous campaign and conscientization program should be done to increase people awareness about human dignity and the equality of rights between women and men,” urged Fr. Emman Embu, SVD, the Program Manager of Anti Domestic Violence Project within Caritas Maumere. Furthermore he explained that violence is the biological legacy from human evolution. It is part of the basic instinct of human being and unfortunately also already rooted in the traditional culture. It’s seemed that the struggle to fight anti domestic violence in Maumere will be a kind of never ending war again the culture of violence.

Just like Silvia’s case, she may forgive his father, but she hardly forgot the experience of very personal violence ever happened in her life. * * *