The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: The domestic violence plague

Tuesday, 19 September 2023, 10:28 Last update: about 4 months ago

Domestic violence is a plague that needs to be eradicated.

In Malta, we have had too many shocking cases. The one which saw authorities finally take action was that of Bernice Cassar.

Cassar was killed in a shooting in Kordin last November on a road close to MCAST. She had reported her husband to the police multiple times before her death. Roderick Cassar is charged with the femicide of his wife, and is pleading not guilty.


The conclusions and recommendations of Justice Emeritus Geoffrey Valenzia's inquiry on the responsibility of each entity had found that the system failed her.

The inquiry found that a single Magistrate was dealing with all domestic violence cases. A single magistrate clearly cannot work on that many cases on their own.

It also found that there was also a delay in the processing of reports, bad or no risk assessment and an inadequate and non-immediate response on the part of the police.

Here one must ask, what on earth were the government and the authorities doing up to this point?

Since then, another Magistrate has been appointed to hear domestic violence cases to ease the workload. The Malta Police Force has also published an updated Standard Operating Procedure for all its members to define clear guidelines on the procedures to be followed when responding to reports of domestic and gender-based violence.

Hopefully the changes will see domestic violence cases acted upon more quickly and effectively.

In an interview with The Malta Independent on Sunday, the Commissioner on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence Samantha Pace Gasan highlighted that the latest statistics, published by the National Statistics Office, reflect the year 2021, and show that there was an increase of 12.9% of victims who made use of domestic violence services across Malta and Gozo, adding up to 3,295 individuals, when compared to the previous year. The fact that more people are making use of services means that they are ready to take the step forward and seek help. This is an important step for any person in such a situation.

It is never ok to stay in an abusive relationship. Seeking help is important and the authorities must be fully resourced to ensure that swift action can be taken to protect those coming forward. Building trust in the system is the only way more victims will pluck up the courage to come forward.

The rise in statistics also shows that domestic violence is still a big problem in Malta. We need to tackle this.

The majority of service users are still women. Nonetheless, new trends emerge as the prevalence of domestic violence within same-sex relationships is similar to that within heterosexual relationships. Another phenomenon which seems to be on the increase is that of child-to-parent violence,” the Domestic Violence Commissioner said.

This latter point is something we rarely hear about. In such situations, parents should not feel ashamed if they need to reach out for help in such situations. Speak up. 

The Commissioner was asked for the key areas she has identified that need improvement. “When we are dealing with clients who are already experiencing trauma, we need to facilitate the process, prevent re-victimisation and provide the necessary support in the most efficient and effective way possible. We are aware that clients using these services tend to take a prolonged period to report the abuse, go back and forth into the relationship, and in cases when the abusive relationship ends, they may very well end up in another violent relationship. It is our responsibility to break the cycle of violence. Hence, why we need to address not only those who are currently experiencing any form of abuse, but also those who still carry the traumas of being direct or indirect victims of violence.”  

Breaking the cycle of violence is not an easy step, but it can be done by seeking support. Domestic violence destroys families and destroys people. It is traumatic for all people in abusive relationships, but also for those around them who witness such abuse. If a child for instance witnesses a family member become a victim of such violence, that is a trauma they will never recover from. Domestic violence is not only about physical abuse, but also emotional abuse, and any case must be treated with the utmost importance. 

If you are in such a relationship, seek help. There are ample resources for seeking support, the Commissioner said. “The first point of contact would be the domestic violence services within Aġenzija Appoġġ, and the Victim Support Agency; that is if the client is not yet ready to make a police report. Other services include those of NGOs, such as SOAR and Women for Women Foundation. These service providers would guide the individual and provide the necessary support for the victim to take the next step. In case where one wants to leave the violent home, then emergency shelters, such as Dar Merħba Bik and Fondazzjoni Sebħ – il-Milja, can accommodate the individual, and again support them to start the process. Legal Aid Malta and Victim Support Agency also provide legal support.

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