Dear Mrs Macaulay,
I have been in an abusive relationship for the past 11 years. We have three kids. Things have taken a turn for the worse as a couple days ago he poured a pot of boiling water on me. I reported the matter to the police but I am at a crossroads about pressing charges as he is the major provider and he would definitely lose his job. He is also a police officer and I have three small kids to think about. Is there any other course of action that I can take to get some form of redress of this evil that has been done to me as my body has now become permanently disfigured?
I am sorry to learn that you have suffered as you have because you continued to stay in an abusive relationship until things took "a turn for the worse". And you did so with your three children who were therefore also victims of their father's abuses of you throughout the period.
An abuser does not engage in such conduct and then suddenly change and stops abusing his victim. You should have taken action a long time ago but thank goodness that you have decided to do something now.
Despite your reluctance to pursue your criminal complaint which his last assault on you warrants, you must act! You must go to the Family Court which serves the area in which you live and make your applications under the Domestic Violence Act for an occupation order which will remove him from the home but still hold him responsible for the payment of rent (if you reside in rented premises) or the mortgage (if he purchased the home). You must also apply for protection orders to keep him away for you, at the home, your workplace, and any other place you normally go to frequently, and that he cannot call, stalk or harass you. Then you should apply for maintenance for your children and for yourself if you do not work out of the home or do not earn enough to fully provide for yourself.
You say he is the major breadwinner, so you should apply that he continues to maintain the family as he used to do. You should also apply for an order that you all — you, the children and especially he — receive counselling.
The Domestic Violence Act was passed to provide protective orders for those like you who are suffering from spousal abuse and the provision that you can apply for maintenance at the same time and that in fact the court itself, if the applicant fails to add such a claim and the facts show the need for financial support, should add the claim for maintenance. Therefore, the fact that he is the main source of support for the family should not have caused you to delay making applications to protect yourself from his abuses over the years and also protect your children from being indirect victims of his acts.
You can also consider filing a claim for damages to be awarded to you for the pain you suffered and the disfigurement you now have to live with because of his serious assault upon your person and also for the refund of any monies you had to pay to receive treatment, any salaries you lost by not being able to go to work, and for the cost of any medical treatment you may have to have in the future.
If this man has been abusing you during your 11 year relationship with him, you must carefully examine your decision to stay with him in such a relationship, because he is clearly an incorrigible abuser. You have to make the correct decisions for your physical, mental and emotional safety and that of your children.
If he purchased your home, you having been with him for 11 years would qualify you as his spouse as long as you and he were both single and were so for at least the last five years of your relationship, and that you lived together as man and wife. You may consider applying under the Property (Rights of Spouses) Act for a declaration that you have a 50 per cent interest in the premises and for an order that there be a division of the interest. It could be that it is sold and the net assets divided between you or that either of you buys the other's interest out. This application can be and should be filed and pursued if you have decided to terminate your relationship, in addition to those under the Domestic Violence Act which I have mentioned above.
Remember that if the home is rented, this fact must be stated in your affidavit in support of your application under the Domestic Violence Act for occupation, protection and maintenance orders. You should also know that when you get these orders, if he breaches any or all of the protective orders, the law provides for him to be arrested without a warrant and taken to the Family Court, and the judge will decide what to do about his breach. You must get from the court a certified copy of the orders, so that if he does breach any, you can show the police the orders made by the court, so that they can see that what he did was a breach and that they can safely arrest him without a warrant.
Please do not delay any further. Act in your own self-interest and in your children's interests and get the orders the law provides for your protection and financial provision, so that you and the children can go on with your lives in a violence-free home environment. Just go to the Family Court in your parish and get the process moving for your own good and to work towards gaining peace of mind.
Good luck to you and your children.
Margarette May Macaulay is an attorney-at-law, Supreme Court mediator, notary public and women's and children's rights advocate. Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; or write to All Woman, 40-42 1/2 Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5. Mrs Macaulay cannot give personal advice.
The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and must not be relied upon as an alternative to legal advice from your own attorney.