Doctors fear that women and children victims of domestic violence in Papua New Guinea will only be “patched up” between abuse incidents without an urgent ramp-up of protection measures.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) made the dire prediction in a report released on Tuesday.
The aid group operates clinics in Port Moresby and rural Tari in the Highlands region and is seeing a revolving door of repeat abuse victims.
More than 90 per cent of its patients are female.
A shortage of safe houses is exacerbating the problem, leaving victims with no choice but to return home to their abusers.
“Without an escalated response, women will remain trapped in violent relationships, unable to remove themselves or their children from harm,” the Return to Abuser report says.
“Vulnerable minors who are raped or beaten in their homes will continue to be returned to their abusers and medical assistance, while vital, will be relegated to patching survivors up between abuse sessions.”
The report tells the story of a woman named Joanna and her 10-month-old baby girl who was raped by the child’s father.
After delays in finding short-term emergency accommodation, a room became available for the mother and child.
But in the end both were forced to return home to the abusive husband because there was no financial assistance available.
Medical teams say that’s a common story, and they frequently see the same women and children returning a second and third time for treatment.
Gender violence rates in PNG are among the highest in the world with 70 per cent of women experiencing rape or sexual assault, according to Human Rights Watch.
The report warns the deepest wounds for victims can be psychological and not enough access to counselling is available.
PNG’s first national domestic violence hotline, supported by ChildFund, went into operation last August and has been inundated with calls from victims seeking help as well as abusers wanting assistance to control anger management issues.
The hotline answered more than 1000 calls in its first four months.
*PNG Domestic violence hotline: 1-TOK KAUNSELIN HELPIM LAIN 715-08000
Snapshot of violence in PNG:
* Doctors Without Borders has treated almost 30,000 domestic and sexual violence victims in PNG since 2007.
* In 2014-15, it treated 3056 people at its clinics in Port Moresby and Tari Hela Province – 94 per cent were women.
* Two in three victims have injuries from weapons such as sticks, knives and machetes.
* For most victims the abuser is someone they knew.
Source: Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders