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Second Lady of the United States of America Visits Dilaasa on 24th July 2013

Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States visited Dilaasa, a hospital based crisis centre for responding to violence against women on 24th July 2013. Dilaasa is a joint initiative of CEHAT and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), and demonstrates an integrated health sector model for responding domestic violence and sexual assault.

Dr. Jill Biden, second lady of the United States visited Dilaasa, a hospital based crisis centre for responding to violence against women on 24th July 2013. Dilaasa is a joint initiative of CEHAT and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), and demonstrates an integrated health sector model for responding domestic violence and sexual assault.

Dr. Biden was received by the Hon. Municipal Commissioner Shri Sitaram Kunte and Chief Medical Superintendent (Peripheral Hospitals) Dr Seema Malik. A briefing about the MCGM health care system, Gender-based Violence and the Dilaasa model was provided by Shri Kunte, Dr Malik and Padma Deosthali, Coordinator of CEHAT. More than 3000 survivors of domestic violence, 155 survivors of sexual assault have received services. More than 2000 women have been provided with suicide prevention counselling. The accessibility of the centre, its integration within hospital and the training of hospital staff was highlighted.

Shri Kunte said “We knew in 2000 that we had to do something about Violence Against Women and so we set up Dilaasa”. Recalling the inception of Dilaasa, Dr. Malik said “Along with CEHAT, we studied models from various countries and implemented what was practical and ethical. We started in 2000 when the DV law was not there - it came only in 2005”. Padma Deosthali said “The right to health care including psychosocial support is now embedded in the DV law and the recent rape laws in India, thus making it a legal obligation for the health sector to set up services for victims of violence.”

After the briefing, Dr. Biden closely interacted with 6 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to understand their experiences vis-a-vis the crisis centre. Survivors narrated how counselling helped them to understand the issue of power and control as reasons for violence, which helped them to take blame away from themselves. They also reported feeling more prepared with skills learnt via counselling for dealing with violence at home on their own. They now feel confident of approaching the police whenever there is a threat of abuse. Dr. Biden wanted to know how they came to know about Dilaasa. Survivors discussed being screened by health providers when they came for treatment of health consequences of violence and were thereby referred to the crisis centre. One woman came after an assault, another after an attempt to suicide. Dr. Biden congratulated survivors for their courage and admired their efforts for dealing with violence. Her daughter also interacted with survivors.

Meanwhile, Dr. Biden’s son in law who is a doctor himself met with a team of trainers from the Training Cell of the MCGM, who discussed the importance of peer-to-peer training to create awareness on Violence Against Women as a public health issue. The health professionals shared how they recognise symptoms of violence and ask women about abuse. The doctor said that he was impressed with the commitment of the staff to undertake this training, and said that medical and nursing education must include this in their curriculum. He said , “A doctor can provide complete treatment only when he or she addresses the abuse faced by the patient.”

The visit concluded by Dr. Biden congratulating the Dilaasa team and Hospital staff for championing such an initiative. Dr. Biden’s visit comes at an opportune time when the Central Government is all set to establish 100 hospital based crisis centres across the country, and it is hoped that Government of Iindia will up-scale the Dilaasa model.

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