Dr Kamalini Lokuge has been interviewed by Sophia Callander for the spring edition of the ANU Reporter on the the family and sexual violence Case Management Centre (CMC) in Lae, PNG.
Fifty per cent of Papua New Guinean women have been raped in their own homes. Sixty-eight per cent have been subjected to physical violence of some kind.
Few receive proper medical care and even fewer receive the counselling, support and intervention they need to obtain protection, let alone justice.
Working to protect these women is Dr Kamalini Lokuge, an epidemiologist in the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health.
Together with Professor Stephen Howes, Director of the Development Policy Centre at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, Lokuge recently returned from Papua New Guinea, where she proposed a family and sexual violence Case Management Centre (CMC) for the city of Lae.
“The day of the proposal meeting, there was a case of a young woman who had been abducted at the age of 17,” says Lokuge. “She had been held captive in a room for two years and had been regularly beaten and raped. She had escaped and come to Lae’s Family Support Centre (FSC) and after receiving medical care was transferred to a safe house; but there was little security there and very quickly the perpetrator became aware that she was being held there and he came with a gun.”
“For all of us at that meeting, the preoccupation quickly became about what was going to happen to her that night – the FSC staff were at risk, the man running the safe house was at risk and the police didn’t know what to do.”
While the young woman was able to settle safely back into her home village, many others have not been so fortunate. This is what initially led Lokuge to conduct an evaluation of the FSC to see what could be done to help.
“From that evaluation I found that the 12,000 clients the FSC has treated – mostly women and children – had received good quality medical care and counselling,” she says. “But the thing I couldn’t let go of was that the majority of women that presented had been injured, raped or assaulted by their partners or family.”
Having worked in war-torn and poverty stricken parts of the world since the age of 26, Lokuge knows what it takes to make a real difference to people’s lives.
“Unless you engage all the way through the process with the people and communities living the problems and the health workers that help them deal with those problems, often what you do will not make a difference,” she says.
“It may seem like it will work, it may change things at a policy level, but in terms of what mothers and children will get, nothing will change.
“The people working in Papua New Guinea are doing more than their best, at their own personal cost. But despite their heroic efforts, the outcomes for survivors of family and sexual violence are all too often tragic because most services are under-resourced. That’s what we’re trying to address with the CMC – helping the community build on what they have already achieved.”
Lokuge hopes the Lae centre will open later this year. She and her team will continue to monitor the program and hope it will eventually be adopted as a national model.
Read the full article here and see a video of Kamalini speaking about her research below.