Last year police responded to 170 calls involving domestic abuse, down from 185 in 2016. But more than a quarter of those incidents came in the final two months of the year.
Police say they are frustrated by the pattern of domestic violence in the Cook Islands and an inability to secure convictions, as many victims withdraw complaints once they get to court.
“The police service has a difficult job in responding to incidents in the home, and in many cases a thankless role in trying to end the violence – even in court where cases tend to be pushed toward the conciliatory option of counselling rather than conviction,” said the police in a statement.
“These figures over the past two years are shocking. But as bad as they might appear on the surface, even worse is the pressure on victims and the complexities involved in relationships.
“No amount of reasoning or analysis of police statistics eases the pain of being assaulted or abused. The numbers don’t speak to the level of influence of alcohol. They don’t explain the impacts on kids. And there is no delving into the ways women feel devalued and helpless in an abusive environment.”
Police said that calls to domestic incidents covered a “wide spectrum of conflicts”, but added they had a “no drop” policy towards charges against those accused of assaults on females and made “considerable” efforts to ensure cases go to court.
“But arrests, charges, and appearances in court can still be vulnerable to changes of heart by those victims,” said the service.
“Police Prosecutors say the majority do not want to pursue their complaints once the process is underway – all the way to the court where letters of withdrawal are produced by the victims. The question might well be asked: Does it take a repeat offender to finally be held to account?”
The police also called for a better use of resources to tackle the problem.
“Police are contending with limited resources while trying to cope with multiple impacts on the family involved.
“And considerable prosecution efforts are being made to uphold the law all the way to court.
If the resolution to conflicts and disputes is found in counselling rather than convictions, there is an added impetus to allocate resources where needed.”