It has been raining in Port Moresby for 6 days straight now! For this post I think I will write on something that is so prevalent in Papua New Guinea yet we seem to act as if the problem does not exsists. It is domestic violence.
Since starting work I have seen a fair numbe of domestic violenct victims. Three years ago when I was in clinical practise the number of cases I saw per week or month was small, about 1-2 cases. Compared to some countries this may still be fairly high. But for the last 3 months I saw more than 10. That is about 3 per month. I have may under-estimating here.
Having seen these women come in with racoon eyes, bleeding gums, loose teeth, cuts and bruises, I feel inadequate most times to treat the pschological aspect of their injuries. I try to refer them to organisations or persons that I think will help them.
Legally, we can not do much unless the victim lays a complaint and want to prosecute the perpetrator. We just have to encourage the victims to take that action.
While pondering on this issue, I began to wonder if we, medical doctors, can more than just treat the physcial injuries. Of course there is all education and awarenes but I wonder if there is more we can do. I am morally and ethically bound to help victims of domestic violence but legally I can not do much unless the victims decide to press charges.
What if there was a law which makes doctors or other health workers, who treat physcial inuries of domestic violence victims, legally bound to report domestic violence cases to a special police branch or the welfare services? Will that in some way bring those who abuse women come to face the law? I am not sure. One of the main downside of such a legislation would be that the perpetrators of domestic violence migh actually kill the victims, in fear being reported. The same argument that has been said about using the death penalty for rapists!
What do you all think?