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State must protect victims of domestic abuse — Abel

BY PAUL HENRY Crime/court desk coordinator henryp@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 28, 2013    

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CONSULTANT psychiatrist Dr Wendel Abel has called on the state to implement adequate support measures for abused women and children and to take steps to stem the destructive cycle.

Abel, who is based at the University Hospital of the West Indies, made the call Tuesday night during the launch in Jamaica of a critical report, titled Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, at the Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

Among other things, he advocated for the training of more psychologists, mental health and community workers.

Abel, who was a panellist at the event, said there was need to establish a child and adolescent service to address the problem, noting that 80 per cent of women and girls who attempt suicide are victims of sexual and physical abuse.

But Minister of Information Senator Sandrea Falconer, who had delivered the main address earlier, said the Government had made some progress on the issue through the Bureau of Women's Affairs, the ministries of health and labour & social security and the Office of the Prime Minister.

She referred to the committee tasked by the prime minister last year with developing a "holistic approach to tackling the problem".

That notwithstanding, the report shows that between 10 per cent and 27 per cent of women in the 12 countries surveyed reported having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, either by partners or other perpetrators, but usually by men they already knew.

Between 41 per cent and 82 per cent of women who were abused by their partners received physical injuries which include broken bones, burns and miscarriages.

In Jamaica, more than 8,000 females aged 15 to 44 were interviewed for the study. Close to 20 per cent of them reported experiencing either physical or sexual violence from partners at some point in their lives, and almost half reported experiencing controlling behaviours by a partner.

Additionally, the report shows that 23 per cent of women who reported being beaten as a child suffered abuse at the hands of their partners.

The report is an effort by the Pan-American Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation.

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