Towns urged to lock in gender violence response systems
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
The Prevention, Support, Rescue and Education (PARE by its Spanish acronym) Committee Against Gender Violence continues to urge island mayors to establish a help protocol by which municipal governments can identify resources and establish a coordinated response to help gender violence victims.
In an interview with the STAR on Monday, PARE Committee Member Vilmarie Rivera Sierra said the protocol would address four fundamental issues: detection and reception, protection, access to justice, and psychosocial support.
“This is one of the most significant advancements that we have had as the PARE Committee; we began seeing what gateways victims go through to seek help,” said Rivera Sierra, who heads the Puerto Rico Domestic Violence Shelter Network. “We saw that municipalities were vital; if a victim or person faces a problem, they go to their closest place, the municipal government, because they have multiple services available and are accessible [for the community].”
Rivera Sierra said implementing a help protocol could allow municipalities to create uniform procedures to intervene with gender violence cases successfully. The PARE Committee plan also would push city halls to link entities that already work on the social problem of gender violence in order to establish an integrated response.
“We are aware that some municipalities do not have the scaffolding or the people who have the expertise, but if victims arrive at their facilities and at least receive the necessary attention, we are doing something right,” said Rivera Sierra, a member of the PARE Service Subcommittee. “Once gender violence victims identify themselves, municipalities can activate their available resources, such as the municipal police forces and others, which have offices like Citizens Affairs or Women’s Affairs, to join forces.”
Meanwhile, Rivera Sierra said, if municipalities recognize that they lack the appropriate tools for responding to gender violence victims, they can request collaborative agreements with non-profit organizations that are certified to provide services to this population.
“We are doing our best to identify every gateway available so every gender violence victim can get access to justice or actual help,” she said. “If we accomplish getting every town to have a structure from within, we can guarantee that victims have within their reach a system they can trust and that protects them, find an answer to their concerns and get out of harm safely.”
“If we can get everyone on that line, I think we can save many lives and help other victims get motivated to seek help,” she added.
As for the next step for the PARE Committee, Rivera Sierra told the STAR that a review of government agencies’ gender violence complaint systems is in the works.
“We are also creating a uniform protocol to tackle gender violence within these entities,” she said. “There is also an educational campaign from the PARE Committee that is very close to coming out.”
Regarding incorporating the gender perspective in the public education system, Rivera Sierra said the committee “is working very hard to implement the program as early as August.”
According to the United Nations, a gender perspective is “the process of assessing the consequences for women and men of any planned activity, including laws, policies or programs, in all sectors and at all levels.”
“It is a strategy to make women’s, as well as men’s, concerns and experiences an integral element in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic, and social spheres,” according to the intergovernmental organization.