One of the biggest challenges is getting women to report cases of domestic violence and seek treatment or support services. People are often afraid to discuss gender-based violence (GBV), especially in remote ethnic minority communities.
This was the case with 42-year- old Sokha*, she is a Tampuen woman and lives at Malik commune, Andong Meas district in Ratanak Kiri province. The mother of ten children experienced both physical and psychological abuse by her husband. However she was afraid to report until she asked for formal support services. “I think I made the right decision to stop tolerating domestic violence and to ask for help from the commune authorities,” says Sokha.
Sokha had suffered domestic violence from her husband for over five years and she tried to keep her silence. She told her neighbours, but she felt no support from them and she started to accept the abusive situation.
Her husband kept using physical violence against her, and in the end so she lost her patience. She decided to report the situation, but she did not know how to do this, and where to look for advice. She only heard that this service was very expensive and therefore out of her reach.
But this year the Commune Committee for Women and Children (CCWC) came to her village several times to share information about support for women who faced gender-based violence; it was played on loudspeakers, and the CCWC also visited her in person at her home to explain GBV, domestic violence, and access to hotlines and support services. “In this way I learned about what services there are and who can support me during a domestic violence incident,” says Sokha
In October 2021, Sokha’s husband again turned abusive. Then she decided to report him to the commune authorities. She met the commune chief and a female CCWC focal point (who provided basic legal information and social services. They brought her to a private room where there were only three of them to discuss her problems and no one could interrupt them. They listened to her story actively without prejudice or discrimination. She continued “I felt so warm and valued when they listened attentively to my story and that they believed me”.
The CCWC focal point explained her that all forms of domestic violence are illegal and that perpetrators face prison. They explained the legal process and encouraged her to make her own decision. “I wanted my husband to stop using violence against me,” she says. Then the commune chief and CCWC focal point called her husband to give him a written warning, notified him of his unacceptable behaviour, and informed him about the domestic violence law. Her husband was asked to sign a letter promising to stop using violence. Her husband behaviour has changed now, and so far no violence has happened.
Sokha is one of CARE’s project participants, who is a GBV survivor in an ethnic minority community that helps break down barriers and speaks out to seek support from our GBV working group.
The GBV working group at Malik commune illustrates the impact to strengthen service providers and raise community awareness on GBV and support services.
“I was very satisfied with the service provided because of the supportive environment and they responded to my needs. I want all service providers perform their roles as good as they do. Many domestic violence survivors are suffering and have not come forward yet. I encourage them to seek support from the local authorities,” she expressed.
This project is funded by the Australian Government through the ACCESS program.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.