Updated: 11/22/2013 14:30 | By Agence France-Presse

Weapons, death threats common in PNG sexual violence

Weapons and death threats are a common feature of sexual violence in Papua New Guinea, according to statistics released Friday by Medecins Sans Frontieres based on thousands of cases.

Weapons, death threats common in PNG sexual violence

In this file photo, hundreds of local women are seen gathering for a national 'haus krai' day of mourning, to highlight the violence and suffering of women in PNG, in Port Moresby, on May 15, 2013

Paul Brockmann, who heads the Doctors without Borders' mission in PNG, said since December 2007 MSF had treated more than 18,000 women, children and men who had been raped, beaten and assaulted by family members, spouses, parents and others.

"It shows a really quite disturbing and shocking statistic about the number of those survivors that we treated who had been abducted or held in confinement, or threatened with a weapon as part of the the assault," he told AFP via phone from Port Moresby.

Of the those treated, 5,350 had received a direct death threat, 557 had been abducted or confined, and in 5,459 cases the person was threatened with a weapon. In 2,800 instances, the patients were children.

While sexual violence is a global problem, in Papua New Guinea the rates are significantly higher.

An Asia-Pacific survey of 10,000 men released in September found that the highest rates in the region were on PNG's island of Bougainville, where for one in five women, their first experience of sex was rape. One-third of men on the island had also experienced sexual abuse as children.

Brockmann said the 18,000 people who came to MSF were seen at only two hospitals -- one in the country's second largest city of Lae and another in the small highlands community of Tari -- meaning that many more victims must be present around the mountainous country of seven million people. 

"It's only the people who were physically or psychologically able to get to us," he said, adding that barriers to seeking help included PNG's poor roads and the costs involved.

"If this is happening in communities throughout the country, which I am certain it is, how many people out there aren't receiving the service they need?" he said.

Brockmann said he believed the PNG government was serious about tackling the problem which was being discussed at a two-day meeting concluding Friday. it brought together medical, social, legal and police authorities in Port Moresby.

"However, there remains an urgent need to provide survivors of family and sexual violence with access to quality, confidential medical and psycho-social care across the country, as well as the legal, social and protective services they need and deserve," Brockmann said.

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