HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 642: 14 November 2012

No Drop Policy for all domestic violence

Cook Islands Police have seen an increase in reported domestic violence cases however for the Police and women’s counseling centre Punanga Tauturu a large portion of domestic violence still remains unreported. For one woman her recent encounter with a domestic violence altercation was enough for her to speak out on local news on Cook Islands Television on Tuesday evening about her own personal experience with physical abuse. Police are investigating her case.
Jenny Vaipapa and her estranged partner operate Jenny and Hemi’s Beach Massage, a beach massage business located on motu Koromiri servicing a majority of the glass bottom boat tourists. Vaipapa and her partner’s relationship spanned 3 years. Initially he was a boarder at her residence. Their relationship matured into that of companionship before eventually merging as business partners and Jenny explains that she felt he had become “over whelming and intimidating” since the pair had decided to partner in business. “I started to feel that he was pushing me hard, I was burnt out and had already burnt out once earlier this year,” Vaipapa explains of her work predicament.
According to Vaipapa, a heated discussion broke out on Thursday afternoon after she had explained the day before to her now estranged partner, that she had found new accommodation for her and her daughter and that they would be leaving in 6 weeks as the rental accommodation would not be available until those dates.
“I got to the point where I had had enough of holding my tongue, and when I told him that I was moving out he went out and got that drunk that night (Wednesday), when he returned home he was a little bit irate and I slept with him to keep the peace. The next day I didn’t go to work I was sick and had some cleaning to organize, when he got home that night I had had a bit to drink and he decided to argue back about my moving out and that the relationship was over.”
The discussion between the two quickly escalated out of control whereupon Vaipapa’s companion and business partner locked her daughter in her room before the altercation took place.
“I didn’t shut my mouth, I had had enough, when he came back from the bedroom I can’t remember everything that happened, what I can recall, I had torn underpants and my top was completely covered in my blood. I remember him picking me up by my underpants and top and carrying me. I remember my face hitting the deck in a mighty way. I don’t remember much after that; I was drunk and I’m not going to say that I was a Saint because I’m not.”
Two men from the bakery located across from their residence came to Vaipapa’s assistance calling the Police, they then sheltered Vaipapa’s daughter in the day centre across the road before taking Vaipapa to the bakery to await the arrival of the Police.
The left side of Vaipapa’s face is severely bruised, her chin and socket of her left eye is purple with bruise from burst blood vessels, the lines of the deck of which her face slammed against are indented and scarred along her cheek and the left corner of her lower lip has scabbed with clotted blood.
As the statistics indicate, for Vaipapa this is not her first encounter with domestic violence. Earlier in the relationship Vaipapa recalls being dragged across the floor by her partner in the same manner after a disagreement, however she admits she did not report that case.
“I had left him once and I ended up going back which isn’t quite sensible but I felt frightened and alone, and I thought that I couldn’t manage on my own,” explains Vaipapa. Classic symptoms of domestic violence victims include issues of shame, helplessness, hopelessness, duration of relationship and dependence on partner as explained by Punanga Tauturu’s Rebecca Buchanan.
“These are very serious emotions that make victims feel trapped in a violent relationship.”
Statistics from Punanga Tauturu show that 53 new cases of domestic violence were reported to the women’s counseling centre within the past year, making that equivalent to one new reported case a week between the periods of October 2011 to October 2012.
Coupled with the women’s counseling centre the Police work conjointly in handling domestic violence cases and Senior Constable Rebecca Ellis of the Cook Island Police Domestic Violence Department says they handle all cases with extreme seriousness.
The ‘no drop’ policy of the Police means that all complaints are taken to court with the final decisions made by a Judge. Punanga Tauturu’s Buchanan explains that for some plaintiff’s the withdrawal of complaints from the courts is a common occurrence; however Ellis says the ‘no drop’ policy means that victims will have to explain to the court the reasons behind their withdrawal.
The severity of the assault is an indicator of offender’s sentencing, Ellis says for first time offenders, “If it is a minor assault it is will usually come up within 6 months, while repeat offenders are subject to a combination probation, community service or custodial.”
Police are investigating this particular domestic violence case and advise that a maximum of 2 years imprisonment is the penalty for serious assault.

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