Malta is going through a domestic violence crisis, and the police’s new empathy simulation is a bite-sized solution to the massive issue.
Reports of domestic violence have been on a constant rise since the beginning of the decade. Last year saw 1,325 abuse reports, roughly four cases every single day. Meanwhile, 2020 has already beaten that record by 15%.
And when you consider that 85% of assaults fly under the police’s radar, we’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg.
It is unrealistic to expect police officers to have sufficient expertise on all types of crime, but it cannot justify victims falling through the cracks of justice.
Last month, New Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’s announced the unveiling of a well-applauded, dedicated unit to streamline domestic violence reports made at police stations and provide specialised training to tackle the crisis head-on. He also unveiled a high-tech, immersive simulation for officers to better empathise with domestic violence victims.
This single domestic violence simulator cost a hefty €115,000.
What is it exactly?
It’s a 3-D simulator where officers are put in the shoes of a child witnessing a parent abusing another. As a child in their bedroom, all you can do is watch helplessly, with just a flashlight in hand and a baby wailing in a cot on your right.
The point is to entice frustration in officers who want to help, but can’t, so they feel the emotions felt by the victims they help.
It’s a six-minute video and while it is an adequate first step, does it merit its €100,000 price tag?
Plus, if it takes a three-minute video to instil empathy with officers, then that’s an issue altogether.
Malta needs more than a simulation to deal with domestic abuse.
A landmark ruling this year found the state guilty of failing to protect a women’s life from abuse from a previous partner. The cause of this failure, the court ruled, was systematic short-comings.
Besides the emotion-driven hurdles to reporting abuse, victims face ineffective remedies; from a lack of a centralised unit and internal system to handle on-going cases, no specialised force, neglect from prosecution and a lack of enforcement of certain issue orders.
In fact, the victim who won the landmark case suffered trauma despite orders issued against her abuser.
Malta’s Domestic Violence Unit will be up and running within the next few weeks and there is good reason to believe that a better handling of the crisis can be achieved with these fresh reforms.
And while the simulation is just a small part of the wider training for the new specialised unit, such as risk assessment training, and more specialised preparations for officers manning the unit, a lot must be done to prevent another Chantelle Chetcuti, who had filed a report against the man who would stab her fatally in the head this year.
We must provide a safe haven for domestic abuse victims not a Pandora’s box of ails.
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