Law enforcement officers from the Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) will “under no circumstance” dissuade a victim of family violence or neglect from reporting the case, states a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) executed between key government bodies that deal with family violence or neglect.
“The Bureau of Public Safety acknowledges that universally there is a culture of underreporting family violence and neglect,” and BPS commits to educating the public about family violence and neglect, states the MOU.
The MOU signed this week between the subdivisions of the Ministry of Justice (Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Public Safety, Office of Victims of Crime Advocate), Ministry of Health & Human Services, Ministry of Education, and Palau Judiciary—all of which are agencies dealing with victims and reports of Family Protection Act violations—outlines concrete tasks and responsibilities each agency must take to enforce the Family Protection Act and assist victims.
The Office of Attorney General will provide training to law enforcement officers on the Family Protection Act, including a “list of questions or checklist to assist officers in factfinding”. This training will also “be available by phone at all times to advise officers at the scene of family violence.” This is one of 10 responsibilities tasked to the Office of Attorney General.
BPS personnel is tasked to provide reports of family violence and neglect to the Office of Attorney General within 24 hours or the next working day. BPS will treat a case of family violence and neglect report like they would any other assault crime.
BPS will help a victim if he/she requires “alternative accommodation, counseling services, support services and/or medical care.” The list further outlines very specific actions to help victims of family violence or neglect.
Office of Victims of Crime Advocate (VOCA) agrees to help victims file court forms, fill out application forms, seek alternative accommodation, get counseling services, and get a medical evaluation.
Ministry of Health & Human Services agrees to report suspected abuse and to modify current protocols with schools to include referral of suspected cases of family violence and/or neglect.
Schools will have internal protocols for staff to follow when responding to family violence or neglect cases.
The MOU, an amendment of an earlier MOU executed in 2014, reflects lessons learned from the past years and seeks to improve responses to victims of family violence and neglect as outlined under the Family Protection Act.
The Family Protection Act, enacted into law in 2014, expanded the definition of a family member, provided legal authorities to swiftly address family protection and safety issues, and made reporting abuses to authorities easier and safer for the victims.