Numbers and statistics about violence against women are hardly an indication of the true picture, explains Centre for Women's Research (CENWOR) board member, Leelangi Wanasundera adding that, "it is only recently that 'victim-survivors' have come forward to report cases of sexual abuse. Many do not come forward. As a result the available data do not convey the actual incidence of violence against women."
With the enactment of laws including the Penal Code amendment and the Domestic Violence Act, increasing awareness has changed the situation to some extent but there are still several cases that go unrecorded.
"One reason for women not reporting it, is that the woman is blamed for the violence -, she feels that it is her fault, she deserved to be abused," Leelangi says. This is especially true in cases of domestic violence as the victims do not want to create further problems for themselves and the children. Further, there is inadequate support and support services including shelters for victims, insensitivity by police officers and reluctance to seek litigation, reasons Leelangi attributes to the disinclination women have to seek a way out of their grave situations. In a move to empower victim-survivors, CENWOR recently launched a trilingual website www.actnowsrilanka.org . According to CENWOR 'information is a vital resource in combating violence but the lack of access to relevant Sri Lanka specific information from any one location has become a serious lacuna in addressing the issue.' With the launch of website a store of information from statistics, publications becomes available empowering women and bystanders/ witnesses to intervene. The site also educates people on how to escape violence or how to protect themselves and how to make a police complaint.
"CENWOR has been disseminating information on gender issues since its establishment in 1984 using print media and awareness raising programmes. With the introduction of Internet facilities CENWOR obtained connectivity, trained women's NGOs and community based organisations in using email. The expansion of internet facilities throughout the country and the government programme of taking the internet to rural areas through the establishment Nena Sala and Vidartha Resource Centres and the increasing number of people using their facilities provided a window of opportunity to extend our outreach through this medium,"says Leelangi. CENWOR invites all those working on issues regarding violence against women to provide them with feedback, add to the resources, utilise the information to educate the public- women and bystanders. "As importantly it is a resource for women as well since they have to be aware of abusive situations and take action to prevent it," explains Leelangi, adding "I came across a very apt saying - 'The first time a victim, then a volunteer'. Women need to have the strength and the resources to combat violence. The best resource is information. The information in the website is to be used. The content is in all three languages. So it is accessible to all Sri Lankans."