Paphos police task force as domestic violence spikes

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With domestic violence incidents spiking 55%, Cyprus police are improving efforts to support women who are victims of abuse by establishing another task force in Paphos next month.

The Association for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (SPAVO) has welcomed Cyprus police announcement establishing a special unit to handle cases of domestic violence in Paphos as part of a national strategy.

Domestic violence units have been set up in Larnaca and Limassol with police planning for one to be set up in the capital next.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, SPAVO director Andri Andronikou said the move will help victims of domestic violence to gain the confidence to come forward and report cases of abuse.

“Just knowing that their case will be handled by trained professionals and that they will not be further compromised, is certainly encouraging for victims to feel safer to come forward.

“The more victims see institutions trying to help them, the more confident they feel,” said Andronikou.

The pioneering “House for Women”, a multidisciplinary centre for support and empowerment of abused women set up by the Justice Ministry is another such institution, noted SPAVO’s director.

She argued that associations working with victims of domestic violence and authorities keep urging victims to come forward, but they can only do so if they feel safe they will be heard and enabled to escape their abuse.

SPAVO is an organisation working with abused women that has seen cases of domestic violence skyrocketed during the pandemic where women are trapped at home with their abuser during lockdown.

Andronikou said the association in 2020 dealt with 2,147 cases of domestic violence, compared to 1,384 the year before, an increase of 55%.

She said the association has provided shelter to 352 victims of domestic violence, women, and children, up from 136 in 2019.

“The increase in victims offered shelter at one of our facilities is also due to the fact that our Limassol refuge home was not fully operational until the end of 2019.”

Andronikou added that another 40 women and 41 children have been put up in flats rented by the association, as their facilities have reached capacity.

“This, unfortunately, is a global phenomenon and has been attributed partly to women being forced to confine themselves at home with their abusers, due to restrictive measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“Home confinement, new working conditions, financial insecurity, the limiting of social contact, gives perpetrators the ‘opportunity’ to impose the dominant role that they think they should have over women.”