Papua New Guinea boxer urges end to domestic abuse after iron attack

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 9 June 2020 12:37 GMT

Debbie Kaore, an international rugby player and boxer in Papua New Guinea, seen in a photo after she was allegedly attacked with a hot iron by her partner. Photo courtesy: De'Bono Paraka

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Two-thirds of women suffer domestic abuse in the PNG, and the sports star hopes her story will inspire others to come forward

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A Papua New Guinea sports star whose partner attacked her with a hot iron has urged women to speak up against abuse in the country, among the world's worst for domestic violence.

Photos showing a bleeding Debbie Kaore with cuts on her face and burns on her leg have sparked outrage in the Pacific nation, where two out of three women suffer domestic abuse, according to the United Nations.

Police arrested Kaore's partner, an army officer, after the photos went viral on social media over the weekend, prompting a warning from the prime minister to men not to beat their wives.

"He went too far, enough is enough. I could have lost my life that night," Kaore told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview from the capital Port Moresby on Tuesday.

"I hope my story is going to make women realise they can speak up for themselves. There are a lot of women who go through domestic violence but say it's a 'family thing'," said the champion boxer and international rugby player.

The 30-year-old won gold in boxing for Papua New Guinea at the Pacific Games in 2015, and has played at rugby sevens events including in Hong Kong, Australia and Fiji since 2009.

Her partner, with whom she has a two-month-old son, has assaulted her several times since they started a relationship a year ago, according to Kaore. She has two other children from a previous marriage.

In the latest incident last week, he accused her of cheating on him, attacking her with a hot iron and head-butting her. It was captured on video by one of Kaore's relatives.

Family violence is a crime punishable by up to two years in jail and fines under a law passed in Papua New Guinea in 2013, but the sports star said many women are still reluctant to speak up.

"Every time he got a weapon I would walk away, but this time I couldn't," said Kaore, adding she hoped to inspire other survivors to come forward.

"If women could come out and speak up, they could get the protection. If women don't speak up about what they are going through, how is the law going to protect us?"

The attack has been widely condemned in Papua New Guinea, one of the three countries in the world with no female lawmakers.

"Brothers and sons, leave that lady alone," Prime Minister James Marape wrote on his Facebook page, urging restraint. The Oceania Rugby union called for action to protect women.

Since sharing her plight, Kaore said she has received support and calls from other domestic abuse survivors. She hoped justice would be served.

"I hope to see him behind bars because he deserves it," she said. "I have kids, I begged him to stop, I could have died in front of my kids that night."

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(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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