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As one of the Kingdom’s Children’s Rights Task Force issues, Bonaire’s team has taken the initiative to work on four pillars in regard to domestic violence; offering shelter to domestic violence victims, promotion of expertise for professionals, a Support Helpline and legislation within the justice system.


Silvana Janga-Serfilia and Reginald de Palm, make up the Kingdom’s Task Force on Bonaire and we spoke to Ingrid Sealy, leading the efforts against domestic violence, about the developments in 2020 and what’s in store for 2021.

The focus in 2020 has been on the Support Helpline for domestic violence and child abuse. It hasn’t officially launched yet, but they have already been taking on cases through other institutions. They have done crisis interventions, where they arranged shelter for many victims and were able to place them elsewhere. Women’s shelters are typically full, with little flux, but the team has been able to arrange alternative shelters for their clients. Some clients have been placed outside of Bonaire as well.


Many cases were brought to them through youth services or the police, but they have noticed that individuals have also started to know and use the reporting hotline. They plan to officially launch the hotline and website later this year to make it easier for individual clients as well as professionals to reach them. Professionals can contact the hotline as well, mostly for advice.

Four professionals have been trained to man the hotline and be equipped to handle the incoming calls. Besides these professionals they have also trained what they call ‘attention officers’. Professionals who already work with people, have received specialized training in domestic violence and child abuse. They have been trained to recognize the signs and develop an in-house roadmap to advice co-workers on how to handle clients that may be victims of domestic violence or child abuse.


Ingrid and her co-worker Desire Frans have trained several institutions like the police force, social workers and people in the medical sector, about the legal aspects of outreach to the hotline or reporting a case. Training about what steps to follow before reporting a case, the privacy of the victim, how to record information and what falls under their authority but also what doesn’t. ‘Bonaire is a small community,’ says Ingrid, ‘and many people don’t know that they need permission from their client before they share information with us. The client also needs to be informed about exactly what they’re giving permission for.’


For 2021, the local government will establish a policy plan for tackling domestic violence and child abuse. The Taskforce team plans to work on an awareness campaign about domestic violence and child abuse where forces are pooled together with other institutions on the island.


On a parallel track, they’re working towards opening a Family Justice Center. A place where victims can find all services under one roof. ‘Imagine that you’re a victim of domestic violence,’ says Ingrid, ‘and you need to go to the police, then to the doctor, then to social work and who knows where next. Somewhere along this route you’re very likely to decide to go home instead of knocking on another door to repeat the same story and get help.’ With the Family Justice Center there will be only one door a victim has to knock on to reach all professionals at once.

If all goes according to plan, the Family Justice Center will open early 2022 and in the meantime the team is spending 2021 to work on establishing collaborations with the different stakeholders and ensure their commitment to the center. This is also a necessary part to be able to understand what every partner’s needs are within such a location.

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