A local woman has set up an online support group to increase awareness of domestic abuse and to encourage victims to speak out and seek help and support.
Rosalina Oliva also plans to lobby for more robust structures and frameworks to support women and men who do leave abusive partners.
The group, ‘Never Alone: Domestic Abuse Support Gibraltar’, was set-up last week and plans to hold monthly meetings where victims of domestic abuse can share their stories and support one another in a safe environment.
The Gibraltar Government is expected to shortly launch a domestic abuse strategy which is to be rolled out over a five-year period.
According to the Government, the objective of the strategy is to eradicate domestic abuse in Gibraltar in all its forms, as well the stigma attached to it.
In her most recent budget address the Minister for Equality Samantha Sacramento said: “It is important to continue to raise awareness of domestic abuse and it is important to work collectively to end all forms of violence, particularly against women and girls.”
Additionally, she explained that as part of the strategy a number of professionals from the stakeholder departments including the Department of Equality, RGP, and GHA are currently undertaking a course on violence against women and domestic abuse.
Ms Sacramento’s department has also worked closely with all schools to raise awareness of domestic abuse and promote healthy relationships and respect.
Speaking to the Chronicle Ms Oliva said the problem was “rife” in Gibraltar highlighting the numerous individuals who have already contacted her privately to share their experiences of domestic abuse.
The overarching aim of the group is therefore to create greater awareness of the full impact of domestic abuse – physically, mentally, emotionally and even financially.
“I think that not a lot of people know or they don’t want to know how domestic abuse is actually quite rife here in Gibraltar,” she said.
“It is very common and it’s not that people want to turn a blind eye but they just don’t know what to do when they come across a situation where they could actually intervene and help.”
Ms Oliva therefore hopes to create better awareness of the tell-tale signs of domestic abuse.
“If they suddenly change, become a little bit distant, if they have any sort of marks or bruises that aren’t necessarily common because they’re not a clumsy person or anything like that and just to recognise that there could be something going on that isn’t right.”
Additionally, she underscored that there is no profile of a domestic abuse victim adding that it can affect people from all walks of life.
“It does not discriminate. It can happen to absolutely anybody.”
Ms Oliva has used the group to help dispel certain myths about domestic violence such as ‘that it is easy to leave’ an abusive relationship.
She points out that many do leave but it is not easy.
Abuse often starts after the relationship has reached a point where it may already be hard to leave, she stated.
Abusers often use manipulative tactics such as apologising, promising to change or even blaming the victim to keep them around.
Additionally, many victims of domestic abuse are afraid to leave and many won’t have the financial resources or even a place to go.
They may have been isolated from friends and family and feel like they have no option but to stay.
Unlike a healthy relationship where a breakup is difficult, in a dangerous relationship people do not break up, victims escape.