Providing Safety for Girls

Pela* grew up with her little sister in one of the outer islands. They moved to the main island when their mother married a man in Tongatapu. Pela is 13 and her sister is 11. They don’t go to school. Pela and her sister stayed home with their mum and stepfather. The plantation was being looked after by their stepfather. After a few months in Tongatapu, their stepfather’s behaviour changed. He always asked Pela to go to the plantation with him where he raped her. She was very scared and could not call for help, because he told her if she said a word he would kill her. He threatened to do the same to her little sister if she told anyone. So she stayed silent. Pela lived in fear for months, and found out her stepfather was doing the same to her little sister. They were both very scared of him, and they didn’t know how to tell their mum. Pela’s mum found out after a woman who was having an affair with her husband told her that she knew what he had been doing with the daughters. Pela’s mum was shocked and asked the girls if it was true. They told her everything that he had done.

Pela’s mum went straight to WCCC to seek help. The Counsellor told them about WCCC’s services including the police officer stationed at the centre, and they filed a statement at the WCCC office. The 2 girls stayed at the Safehouse for a few months until their court hearing. All the staff of the WCCC worked together with the Police Department for the safety of these two sisters. The stepfather was arrested and pleaded guilty. He died while in prison waiting for sentencing. The family moved back to the outer island.  The Centre is still in contact with them to provide ongoing counselling.

*The name of the client have been changed to protect the clients’ identity.

I cannot handle it anymore

The client is 18 years old and lives in Tongatapu. She lived with her partner for 2 years before marrying him, and it was not until they got married that her husband started abusing her both verbally and physically. She had also suspected that her husband was having affairs.

After the birth of their first child her husband beat her up badly. She reported this to the police. It was settled with a brief council by the police and the Magistrate, and as a result her husband was pardoned by the court. But sadly the beatings continued, and from the experience she had with the police and the court, she lost faith in attempting to report again.

One day she could not handle it anymore and she came to the WCCC for help. She received counselling and was housed in the safe house.

She was relieved when the Magistrate put her husband on a suspended sentence. She felt this enabled her to return home to a safe environment: “If my husband returns to his violent ways at least I have the suspended order on record – so the police can’t pretend anymore that they don’t have anything on file – and the next time we appear in court he will get a much more serious sentence. If that happens, it is proof to me that he wasn’t serious about changing, and so I will consider a divorce.”

 

 

Living in fear for months

Pela* grew up with her little sister in *‘Uiha. They moved to the main island when their mother married a man in Tongatapu.

Pela is 13 and her sister is 11. They don’t go to school. Pela and her sister stayed home with their mum and stepfather. The plantation was being looked after by their stepfather.

After a few months in Tongatapu, their stepfather’s behaviour changed. He always asked Pela to go to the plantation with him where he raped her. She was very scared and could not call for help, because he told her if she said a word he would kill her. He threatened to do the same to her little sister if she told anyone. So she stayed silent.

Pela lived in fear for months, and found out her stepfather was doing the same to her little sister. They were both very scared of him, and they didn’t know how to tell their mum.

Pela’s mum found out after a woman who was having an affair with her husband told her that she knew what he had been doing with the daughters. Pela’s mum was shocked and asked the girls if it was true. They told her everything that he had done.

Pela’s mum went straight to WCCC to seek help. The Counsellor told them about WCCC’s services including the police officer stationed at the centre, and they filed a statement at the WCCC office.

The 2 girls stayed at the Safehouse for a few months until their court hearing. All the staff of the WCCC worked together with the Police Department for the safety of these two sisters. The stepfather was arrested and pleaded guilty. He died while in prison waiting for sentencing. The family moved back to ‘Uiha.  The Centre is still in contact with them to provide ongoing counselling.

*The name of the client and the place have been changed to protect the clients’ identity.

 

“I have no voice at all”

It was a shock that my husband treated me this way after a short time of marriage. He beat me, swore at me and said bad words that really hurt me. He beat me with a piece of timber, a coconut scraper and threw things at me. It was really hard for me to tell how he would react to something that I did,  if he would like it or not.

More than five times I sought help from the police, and the truth is, they did nothing to solve our problems. Even my parents and my family were always begging me to go back to him because of our children. We have six children.

Our problems have had a huge impact on our children’s education. My other relatives were sick of stopping us arguing and fighting all the time and I just couldn’t handle it. He’s the type who can’t talk in a peaceful way, he doesn’t want to listen to anything I say, I have no voice at all. Whatever he does and says he thinks he’s right. He wants me when he gets back from work, to cook his food, clean the house, wash and iron his clothes and hang them to make it easy for him to pick the clothes he wants to wear.

All this time I’ve been back and forth to  the police with no progress and no solution to our problems. I sought help from different people and then heard about the Women and Children Crisis Centre from a close relative. I went straight to the Centre, and told them my problems. I had a counseling session with the counselor and also support from their legal officer.

Finally I made my decision to have a Police Safety Order (PSO) issued to my husband, for my and the children’s safety. I also decided to apply for  child maintenance.

I thank WCCC for their great support because without them I may not have escaped from the violent relationship I was stuck in. Now I feel safe and free. I encourage all women who are still trapped in the same situation to get out from it and do something to stop that violent relationship. If you don’t the violence will continue and it will not stop until you do something to stop it. So I recommend you seek help from WCCC any time you want, they are there to help you in whatever way they can.

 

“A huge relief”

My husband and I have been married for almost twenty years, we have six children and both of us work for a living.

 It was the saddest day of my life when I learned that my husband had lied to me. I have been living in a violent relationship with my husband. Whenever I asked him to tell me the truth that is when I got beaten up. And because I still loved my husband, one day I followed him to the house of the other woman he was seeing and I hid outside while he went inside.

 I waited until he came out of the house. On his way back he found me outside and beat me there and then took me home.

 Our violent relationship had a huge impact on my work and my family, especially my children. I was absent from work many times and our children started to hate their father because they saw and heard what he did to me.

 I lived in pain every day and our relationship started to break down.  I was trying to think of a way to solve our problems and I reached a point where I decided to go straight to the workplace of the woman my husband was seeing and talk to her.

 I saw no other option so I decided to go and see my husband’s girlfriend. While I was waiting at the reception area one of the customers started talking to me. We had a conversation, and I couldn’t hold on to my pain so I shared it with this person.

 She asked me if I had been to the Women and Children Crisis Centre to seek their assistance and talk to them.  I told her “no”. She encouraged me to go to the centre because they provide services for women and children. They have a legal officer, police officer, a nurse and the counsellors if I need someone to talk to.

 During our conversation I made my decision that I would launch a complaint with the police. I went straight to the Crisis Centre and told them my problem and launched a complaint.  The police officer issued a Police Safety Order (PSO) to my husband to remove him from our house. This was a huge relief.

 I still receive follow up from the Centre.  I am very happy now and safe with my children. I acknowledge the Centre for their help and support and I encourage any women who are living in pain and fear in  violent relationships to visit the Centre and seek their help and assistance.

 

Providing Safety for Girls

Pela* grew up with her little sister in one of the outer islands. They moved to the main island when their mother married a man in Tongatapu. Pela is 13 and her sister is 11. They don’t go to school. Pela and her sister stayed home with their mum and stepfather. The plantation was being looked after by their stepfather. After a few months in Tongatapu, their stepfather’s behaviour changed. He always asked Pela to go to the plantation with him where he raped her. She was very scared and could not call for help, because he told her if she said a word he would kill her. He threatened to do the same to her little sister if she told anyone. So she stayed silent. Pela lived in fear for months, and found out her stepfather was doing the same to her little sister. They were both very scared of him, and they didn’t know how to tell their mum. Pela’s mum found out after a woman who was having an affair with her husband told her that she knew what he had been doing with the daughters. Pela’s mum was shocked and asked the girls if it was true. They told her everything that he had done.

Pela’s mum went straight to WCCC to seek help. The Counsellor told them about WCCC’s services including the police officer stationed at the centre, and they filed a statement at the WCCC office. The 2 girls stayed at the Safehouse for a few months until their court hearing. All the staff of the WCCC worked together with the Police Department for the safety of these two sisters. The stepfather was arrested and pleaded guilty. He died while in prison waiting for sentencing. The family moved back to the outer island. The Centre is still in contact with them to provide ongoing counselling.

*The name of the client have been changed to protect the clients’ identity.

Empowered to Return Home and Determined Not Put Up With More Violence

The client is 18 years old and lives in Tongatapu. She lived with her partner for 2 years before marrying him, and it was not until they got married that her husband started abusing her both verbally and physically. She had also suspected that her husband was having affairs. After the birth of their first child her husband beat her up badly. She reported this to the police. It was settled with a brief council by the police and the Magistrate, and as a result her husband was pardoned by the court. But sadly the beatings continued, and from the experience she had with the police and the court, she lost faith in attempting to report again. One day she could not handle it anymore and she came to the WCCC for help. She received counselling and was housed in the safe house. She was relieved when the Magistrate put her husband on a suspended sentence. She felt this enabled her to return home to a safe environment: “If my husband returns to his violent ways at least I have the suspended order on record – so the police can’t pretend anymore that they don’t have anything on file – and the next time we appear in court he will get a much more serious sentence. If that happens, it is proof to me that he wasn’t serious about changing, and so I will consider a divorce.”

 

Challenges in Helping a Client Take Steps to Access Justice

At the beginning of the year the WCCC worked closely with a young married mother, who came to the Centre seeking help after being raped by a Police Officer. She is married with 2 children and her much older husband is a drug-user who physically, sexually and emotionally abused her. When she first came to WCCC she felt helpless and found it difficult to place her trust in anyone. She felt she couldn’t talk to anybody and knew that her own family were working closely with her husband to victimise her. She was in a state of shock, extremely nervous and afraid and found it extremely challenging to describe what had happen to her.

Over several counselling sessions, the Counsellor helped her to consider her options. The main challenge with this case was that she refused to speak with any police because she had lost trust in them following the rape and ongoing harassment. After some time, she agreed for WCCC to arrange a meeting with the Police Commissioner, who encouraged her to write a police statement so that the appropriate steps and procedures could be taken. She decided to do so, but refused to speak to any other police, and was assisted with preparing an affidavit by WCCC and had it sworn in at the court registry. The Police have not accepted the affidavit as sufficient and have asked WCCC to work with the client to get her to take a statement with the assigned police officer. She has refused to do so but is still receiving follow up communications from her case counsellor to ensure that if and when she is ready, WCCC will be ready to continue supporting her.

A Foreigner Living in Tonga Helped Through WCCC and FWCC Collaboration

The client thought she was in a hopeless situation because she was living in Tonga, which was a foreign country for her. She felt rejected by her husband who had brought her here. She described her life as being a second class citizen in their marriage. Her husband was on a well-paid salary but she was given little or no funds for herself or their child, who was born in Tonga. He would refuse to give her any money and would often make her beg for it. She also had limited contact with people like friends, family and neighbours because her husband stopped her from communicating with them. She eventually found out that her husband was having an affair with his co-worker. After she approached him about it, he contacted an immigration officer to request that they revoke her visa so she could be deported back to her country. She was shocked to receive a letter from the Immigration Office stating that her visa was going to be revoked and that she had to leave the country. He planned for her to leave their daughter with him, while having his wife deported. She confided in a neighbour, fearing the worst. The neighbour referred her to the WCCC.

“I felt so relieved when I came in for my first visit. I thanked God that he sent me to the right people. I was told by my husband that the immigration officer would come and remove me from Tonga on the first flight out on the following day. WCCC contacted their counterpart overseas, the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to see if they could help out in this case. The assistance provided by the WCCC through the FWCC was financial support to urgently appoint a lawyer to prevent my removal and to prevent my separation from my 3 year old daughter. I eventually filed for divorce, custody and maintenance.” The client has now returned to her home country with her daughter.

 

Barriers to Safety and Justice

The client is a 34 year old woman living in Tongatapu. Her husband had continuously beaten and abused her during their married life. At one time her husband even slashed her with a knife. He was a very possessive man. She had previously been beaten with a glass bottle and as a result she and her husband were always in and out of court. She had reported most beatings to the police but since her husband had many good friends at the police station, her cases always seemed like a lost cause. Each time they appeared in court, the Police Prosecutor would have no previous files on her husband, so the Magistrate would always sentence him as if it were the first time he appeared before the court.

Finally she heard of the WCCC and after one brutal beating she escaped and found refuge at the centre. She received immediate counselling and advocacy support. This time, her Counsellor Advocate and the Police Officer stationed at WCCC ensured that her husband’s previous files were presented in court. However, the court again failed this victim because it took into consideration a plea from a church leader regarding the perpetrator’s character and his attempt to seek counselling.

The WCCC is continuing to provide counselling to the client, and will monitor and document closely the attitude and behaviour of the perpetrator through the counselling process.