A bush knife covered in juice from a fruit, in Tari, Papua New Guinea. The knife is commonly used during disputes and outbreaks of violence. Photograph: Jodi Bieber/ MSF
The next night he got the bush knife and was trying to cut me. So I got these two small ones[ children] and we walked away. I was trying to leave the house, but he pulled my shirt and pulled me down. He punched me here and I fell on top of that small boy.
Women lack safe places to go to when they are assaulted. Many have no choice but to return to an abusive home. Paula says the police dedicated her husband a warning, and he assaulted her again once they were home.
Finally Paula escaped and contacted a family support centre and the police. Her husband was arrested and Paula grabbed her children from the house. She is waiting for him to face court and for her relatives to create enough money to fly her and the children to Port Moresby.
Asked if shes fretted he will track her down, she says: He might, so Im afraid. He said if Im going back hes going to kill me.
Despite violence against women being permeating available data is old, flawed and specific to the small locations where people have been surveyed resources to tackle the problem are minuscule. Shelters are so few that facilities like the Lae refuge are nationally renowned.
While the government has passed new laws against family and working sexual violence it has largely failed to legislate or enforce any of them, and services are provided by NGOs, churches and grassroots organisations. Family, and the traditional welfare network of wantok, also play their parts.
Ume Wainetti, national coordinator of the family and sexual violence action committee, says the government is failing to follow through on commitments. Its either through ignorance or people are not prepared to use the law. Rape charges are very minimal, she says.
Family and sexual violence units attached to 14 police station are proving effective but are resource-starved. The Lae unit has two officers and a commandant, who on any dedicated day face 30 to 40 girls lodging a complaint or seeking interim protection orders against violent partners.
Sebastian Roberts, family and sexual violence coordinator at the department of health, says collaboration between government, authorities and organisations is improving but gaps remain.
The commitment is there in terms of paper, but when it comes to funding we have a problem, he says.
In Port Moresby, concealed behind trees next to a hotel, two dozen women and children shelter in a guesthouse called Haus Ruth. It was opened by the City Mission charity 13 years ago.
We ensure a want “thats really not” being addressed, or was but in a very, very limited fashion, says Ronald Brown, the pastor who runs the mission.
Brown wants to convert the guesthouse into apartments and use the money to accommodate more survivors at a protected community on farmland owned by the mission out of township. Perpetrators frequently show up at the gates of Haus Ruth go looking for their partners.
Its not like in America or Australia where you have a womens refuge tucked in a place where nobody knows, he says.
Here were right on Ela beach, next to a hotel. Everybody knows where we are. Were hoping to eventually, someday, move Haus Ruth, procure it better, and get a bit of distance between them and perpetrators here.
Because[ the number of residents] can change dramatically at any point in time we have to have the capacity to be able to absorb whatever happens. Theyre all brought to us referred by police or other NGOs. Were the only game in town.
I have four young girls there right now who came in alone. Theyre aged 12 to 14. Three of them were sexually trafficked. The fourth has been badly sexually abused.
Its an alarming aspect of the violence, particularly in cities. Girls are trafficked from other provinces and forced into sexual slavery. Some local girls are trafficked by family and forced into sex work.
We do get referrals from outside the community and we do repatriate outside the community, depending upon situations. So if its not safe for the women to be in this community, well pay to get them sent back to a village or an island or wherever they have to go to get away from the perpetrator, says Brown.
The City Mission also operates a halfway house for boys who have lived on the street or been in prison. Brown aims to teach them about respect for women while they are young.
He estimates up to 500 young men are in the programme, and the majority of them grew up surrounded by abuse.
Theyre so used to seeing it, theyre so conditioned to see it, that even after spending a year and a half at City Mission, they are continuing may leave supposing the same way, he says, but adds that the programmes are having a positive impact.
To stop gender-based violence, working with the women and children who have been victims and survivors is patently a necessity, but we need to[ also get] a hold of the young men.
The health departments Roberts concurs. Men are coming on board. Before when the issue of gender was coming in, they ensure it as a womens issue. But after much advocacy and awareness we began to see humen coming in to support women and look at prevention of GBV and promotion of human rights.
Paula and Julie wait at Femili, reliant on wantok to cobble together funds to help them move on with their lives.
I was happy when I came here, says Paula. I felt there are friends here who will help me. I will get a restraining order and go to welfare about these two children. Im not going back to him.
Names have been changed to protect identities. The Guardian travelled in Papua New Guinea with MSF