Home is where the hurt is in PNG

A 14-year-old school girl raped by her father is the youngest victim of gender violence at a Port Moresby womens' shelter.

A victim at a Port Moresby women's shelter.

A 14-year-old girl is the youngest victim of gender violence at a Port Moresby women's shelter. (AAP) Source: SBS

PORT MORESBY Nov 6 AAP - An orange belt in taekwondo was not enough to fight off the man who should have been Ester's greatest protector.

School and martial art classes are on hold for the quietly spoken 14-year-old.

She's one of the youngest victims at City Mission Haus Ruth, a women's shelter in Port Moresby where she has access to counselling and other support.

"I came here because I was abused by my biological father," she told AAP.

"Just once."

Ester's story is shockingly all too common in Papua New Guinea.

Domestic violence rates are among the highest in the world and an estimated 70 per cent of PNG women experience rape and assault.

It's an ongoing challenge to keep victims safe. Disgruntled husbands make threats to burn down the safe house, which receives financial support from ChildFund. One even fired a gun at the security guards but missed. Others have hired criminal gang members, known as raskols, to do surveillance.

But staff are also seeing signs of hope with some men agreeing to undergo couples' counselling.

It's been successful for Tina, 45, and her husband.

"It made a change to the life of my husband, he has given up his abusive ways," she told AAP.

In 2014, she arrived at Haus Ruth with the clothes on her back, a bloody face, broken arm and knee cap, on the cusp of ending her life.

She is now helping support other women.

Mary, 34, is a former high school teacher who was forced to give up her job because bashings left her too injured to teach.

"He would drag me out in public and then hit me with a (machete)," she told AAP.

Despite the ordeal she holds hope for reconciliation with her husband.

"I still love him," she said.

For Highlander mother-of-one, Fiona, 25, the future is uncertain.

"He used weapons like knifes to belt me," Fiona said.

"He would lock me in a room, strip off my clothes and sexually abuse me for hours."

Once he pushed her down on the ground and went to shoot her with his gun but there were no bullets left.

Fiona is hoping to return to her family's village in the Highlands but first she needs to save some money.

In PNG there is no social welfare system, so domestic violence victims who choose to leave their partners face devastating economic hardship.

Instead, the country has what is known as a wantok system, a tribal tradition of looking after clan members who are in the same language group - PNG is a country of 800 languages and 1000 unique tribes.

Unfortunately for women, the system offers impunity to domestic violence perpetrators, also part of the clan - so bystanders are reluctant to intervene.

* To donate to Haus Ruth visit citymission.com.pg/

* Readers seeking support and information can phone the Australian national domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

3 min read
Published 7 November 2015 at 1:37pm
Source: AAP