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Curbing domestic violence
It’s argued that domestic violence is one of the most pressing societal issues facing T&T. We have seen a marked increase in such acts against women as well as the noticeable increase in interest generated by users of social media.
The controversy surrounding the 2016 arrest of a Chaguanas businessman and the alleged instances of domestic violence that were perpetrated which were shared on social media stirred widespread discussion about domestic violence, its culture, police response, the psychology of victims, and the complex responses to abuse by its victims. In light of this and a host of domestic violence-related acts (eg, stabbings, beatings and murders) committed mainly by males in T&T, this issue is quite contemporaneous.
Recent pronouncements by a slew of commentators as well as those by the Prime Minister of T&T calling on women to make wise choices of partners have not gone unnoticed. They’ve triggered a host of subsequent commentary. However, the issue of domestic violence remains a topical one which is in need of urgent attention, more-so, its root causes.
Domestic violence affects all social layers of our society and leaves a day-to-day legacy of individual and collective suffering, pain, psychological scars and trauma on direct and indirect victims. It has significant negative impacts on the health, well-being and psyche of women in abusive relationships. Arguably, these negative impacts usually transcend women’s current relationships and are often transferred into newer relationships. Unfortunately, for some abused women, the psychological scars of domestic violence are more serious than the physical scars.
Research has consistently shown that domestic violence is rooted in issues of power, control and domination. It identifies many types, causes, signs, symptoms and effects of this serious problem. Domestic violence is neither male nor female centric as either sex can be a victim. It’s widely argued that it has its genesis in choice. For the victim, the choice has much to do with the initial choice of the abuser as a partner. However, in many instances, the individual is not yet an abuser. Further, the victim has another choice to make, that is, between staying with the abuser or leaving the living arrangements with him/her. Instructively, none of the two is an easy choice for victims.
A common pattern of domestic violence is that the abuser rotates between violent, abusive behaviours and apologetic behaviour with tearful promises to change. The abuser may be very pleasant most of the times, especially in public spaces. However, therein lies the life-long appeal of the abused partner, hence the reason why many abused persons are unable to leave abusive relationships. This has been referred to as the “cycle of violence” by scholars.
Important to ask are, do abusers show potential warning signs, and what can be done to address the concerns? Instructively, research has identified some subtle warning signs:
1. Insistence on moving quickly into a relationship;
2. preventing the significant other from engaging in leisure or professional activities, and/or spending quality time with friends and family;
3. high levels of jealousy and controlling behaviours;
4. constant and often unwarranted criticisms of the abused individual;
5. Lack of responsibility for their actions and frequently blame extraneous factors for their abusive behaviour.
In terms of addressing the concerns surrounding potential abusers, education and negative reinforcement are key. Parents, schools, places of worship and all other social institutions must educate our youth on non-violent ways of resolving personal, relational and professional conflicts. This may not be a “silver bullet” that will automatically bring an end to domestic violence but it’s a reliable starting point.
Further, policy makers must avoid their tendency to be profligate with financial resources and examine society’s collective responses to violence against women aimed at implementing programmes based on the primary prevention. Instructively, domestic violence-alleviation should not be left to civic society or legislators alone, but also involve academics and researchers as they provide data, analyses and recommendations for action on the drivers of domestic violence.
Additionally, society, inclusive of the criminal justice system, must always show our abhorrence to domestic violence using the principles of severity, certainty and celerity when dealing with perpetrators of this insidious act.
The curtain of domestic violence must be raised at all times to expose incidents of it against women and not be whimsically opened and closed to suit the fancy of people. Instructively, this pervasive problem of domestic violence in T&T must be addressed from a strategic and evidence-based perspective. We all have a role to play in the alleviation of domestic violence in our societies.
We should never close our eyes to domestic violence by people within our communities simply because it does not affect us directly. To do so is to send a coded message and to indirectly condone its occurrence. Importantly, the first step for victims to end the scourge of domestic violence is to recognise that their relationship with the abuser is abusive.
• Dr Wendell C Wallace conducted a 2015 study on domestic violence and it’s published in the Caribbean Diaspora Crime Prevention Gazette, Vol 5, Special Issues 2&3. He’s a barrister, criminologist and university lecturer.
Dr Wendell C Wallace,
Guest Writer, CISPS
It has significant negative impacts on the health, well-being and psyche of women in abusive relationships. Arguably, these negative impacts usually transcend women’s current relationships and are often transferred into newer relationships. Unfortunately, for some abused women, the psychological scars of domestic violence are more serious than the physical scars.
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