San Juan – The attorney for the Office of the Procurator for Women (OPM), Lersy Boria Vizcarrondo, called on government agencies and officials to strongly support the work of the OPM and to stop using gender violence as “ narrative baton for political-partisan advances ”.
Boria Vizcarrondo ruled on Monday morning that both the proposed legislation and the state of emergency approved and declared by La Fortaleza – and for which a response is still awaited – must include the funds for its implementation.
“Since I have been in the attorney general’s chair, I have seen how candidates for political positions address the issue of gender violence for the sole purpose of their particular interests and partisan politics. This is a human rights issue. The problem of gender violence is being minimized and there are very few of us who wake up every day with the faithful commitment to eradicate it, ”said the attorney in written statements.
The official also alleged that “violence is a social problem that affects us all; it is not eradicated with a tweet, with a press conference, political debate or even with legislation that remains on paper, without allocation of funds to implement it. On the one hand, we count women and give them the only value of a number; on the other, we analyze and transmit a misogynistic message. To truly commit, we have to raise funds, invest in children, women and their families ”.
Among the challenges highlighted by the attorney, she pointed out the reduction in personnel and funds during the past years.
As explained, the OPM had 56 employees for 2009; Since 2019, the office only has 17 career employees, which represents a 70 percent reduction in personnel. Even so, they continue to work 24/7 and do a titanic job.
Regarding the funds allocated, the OPM has asked the central government and the Fiscal Supervision Board for a budget increase.
He argues that, from 2016 to the present, the office has seen a reduction of approximately $ 1 million.
In Puerto Rico, 52.4 percent of the population in Puerto Rico are women, of which 21.3 percent are heads of household.
On that basis, Boria Vizcarrondo said that he supports any measure that allocates recurring funds to improve service to surviving victims.
She explained that the surviving victims of gender violence that the OPM attends include cases of sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking, domestic or workplace violence, breastfeeding, as well as secondary victims (sons and daughters).
However, and despite the reductions, the prosecutor highlighted the work of the work team at OPM in the effort to duplicate its work: an increase of 88 percent in face-to-face counseling and 110 percent in telephone counseling at the Response Center Integrated (CRIAS); as well as a 73 percent increase in cases handled in the Legal Division of the OPM.
“We are aware that we continue to endure a fiscal crisis that disrupts all the services that the government offers. On our part, we are doing our best to make wise use of the funds provided, but it is important not to continue skimping in the fight against gender-based violence. I remain at the disposal of all public officials and agencies to find the best solutions in favor of our women, ”said the official.
Among the efforts that have been carried out, the prosecutor highlighted meetings with various organizations and individuals to attend to and respond to their needs and establish collaboration agreements in initiatives that contribute to the eradication of gender violence.
Boria Vizcarrondo explained that “one of these meetings was with leaders of the Colectiva Feminista en Construcción at the end of last November. The OPM analyzed the draft executive order provided by the Collective to declare a state of emergency and presented the actions that were being carried out, aimed at each of the proposals. Receiving support for the executive order is important, but even more important is being able to count on the funds that the declaration of a state of emergency would provide to be able to execute it ”.
Among the measures that the OPM has promoted and for which it is requesting support, include specialized training for prosecutors on issues related to the effective handling of domestic violence and sexual assault issues; funding alternatives for testing unanalyzed safe kits; and the review of protocols for handling cases of domestic violence, gender violence and sexual assault in all agencies, particularly in the Department of the Family.
Likewise, the training for social workers and personnel who work with women victims of abuse and their sons and daughters were highlighted; and the establishment of statistics on the incidence of gender violence in schools, which are currently generally identified as “acts of violence”.
The official also stressed the importance of working together with the Police Division that manages the identification and management of agents with a history of assault and domestic violence and the offering of workshops to the Puerto Rico Police and the Municipal Police on Law 59 .
On the other hand, the importance of continuous training for the personnel of the residential administration agents, who offer direct services to the residents in handling cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and protection orders, was underlined; as well as the availability of shelters or residential programs to treat mental health conditions for women who are victims of violence.
Boria Vizcarrondo also considered it important to review the safety protocols in shelters in cases of emergency; develop guidelines for the distribution of CDBG-DR funds that include as a priority women victims of violence and survivors and their sons and daughters; and reviewing protocols for housing services for female victims of violence.
ASSMSCA’s collaboration was also requested in the Plan for the Prevention and Management of Domestic Violence at the island level; the provision of statistics from the PAS Line on cases related to domestic violence, gender and sexual assault; and validate the mental health services available to female victims of violence, their children and families.
As for the Department of Health, it is urged to have shelters prepared for cases of COVID-19 with serological and molecular tests; visits and meetings to identify shelter needs for women survivors of violence and their families, as well as other vulnerable populations; as well as the establishment of coalitions and other non-profit organizations that work on women’s issues.
Boria Vizcarrondo pointed out that inter-agency collaboration is also of utmost importance, for which he requests the implementation of inter-agency groups and working groups in order to design concerted actions that respond to the needs of victims and survivors of violence; information campaigns on prevention lines; and educational campaigns in a collaborative effort to educate about the manifestations of violence in relationships.
It also seeks to establish collaborative agreements for an education campaign that appeals to all sectors of the population, in conjunction with various organizations, agencies and information media.
In additional educational matters, it is urged to implement the project of coeducational schools in a greater number of schools to eventually extend it to the entire system; as well as strengthening and expanding PRDE’s work to prevent dating violence in schools, which includes the design and dissemination of a guide for the development of protocols for the prevention and management of violence against young couples in the school context.
Lastly, the prosecutor seeks support to strengthen the units that work on crimes of sexual assault and gender violence; the review of protocols and actions related to the attention of cases of domestic violence and sexual assault; as well as training and support programs aimed at issues of resilience, awareness of gender violence, management of emotions, stress and aggressive behaviors in officers and supervisors.
“One death is more than enough to continue working with the urgency it deserves. Let’s educate ourselves, let’s not normalize violence; Let’s implement, let’s not settle for being alarmed when the most macabre and last act that can be carried out against a woman is performed. Let’s root this out; enough is enough ”, concluded Boria Vizcarrondo.