Emancipation and the domestic violence conversationMonday, August 02, 2021
NEWS reports indicate that the pandemic has resulted in significant domestic violence incidences and reports, directly related, experts say, to the lockdowns, and frustration over families' economic situations. So prevalent were the reports worldwide that the World Health Organization issued a statement some months ago, referring to violence against women during the pandemic as a “major global public health and women's health threat”.
But even as the reports are made, there are other reports of women who choose to stay, a decision that often baffles policymakers who try to make provisions in the law, and otherwise, to help them.
Why would a woman stay in an abusive relationship? they ask.
The answer lies, other experts say, in understanding the barriers that stand in the way of women leaving abusive relationships. And perhaps when we understand these, we can begin to empower them to emancipate themselves.
Educator, social activist and mentor Annan Boodram, who is also president of The Caribbean Voice, takes a peek at the several barriers in the piece, Why victims stay in abusive relationships, also carried in this issue.
Having read the account, and understanding the barriers, how can we empower women to leave?
Intake counsellor Teresa G Robinson says there are three key provisions that need to be made for these women as we seek to empower them.
1. Helping them to put themselves first
“You don't do this by pointing out the obvious, that is that they should leave, but by building them, whether through programmes, opportunities, or tangible help, so that they can see their way out,” Robinson said. “It's not as easy as saying leave. Leave to go where? For how long? To what end? All these questions need to be answered.”
2. Helping them to grow
“Part of the reason why women stay is that their circumstances sometimes makes it impossible for them to grow without the abuser's help,” Robinson, a Jamaican who runs a domestic violence shelter in Atlanta, Georgia, said. “You can't just tell them to leave without providing the support — social services — that they will need to get back on their feet. Otherwise it will be a cycle of seeking out the same harmful behaviours, in order to just survive.”
3. Protecting them “Paramount to helping a woman leave an abusive situation is offering assurance that you can protect her and her children, and not just in the short term,” Robinson said. “So the entire network — from the police officers to the intake counsellors to the court system — needs to work together, so that she is kept safe, and doesn't see seeking help as a dangerous move.”
What of protection locally?
In April, Cabinet gave approval for amendments to be made to the Domestic Violence Act that will serve to strengthen the law.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange said among the legislative changes is the inclusion of a definition of the term 'domestic violence' in the Act.
“The definition will make clear that domestic violence is not only physical, but also psychological, emotional and sexual and may occur in situations where intimate images are exposed to inflict harm on a person, among other situations,” Grange said.
The penalty for breach of a protection order will also be increased, she assured. The current penalty is $10,000. Grange wants to see the penalty moved to $1 million or imprisonment for at least one year.
Meanwhile, the first national women's shelter for victims of domestic violence is now open. The numbers for the 24-hour hotline for women who need to use the service are 876-553-0372 or 876-929-2997.
HOW TO Seek help from abuse:
•Woman Inc Crisis Centre at 876-929-2997
•Police at 119
•Child Protection & Family Services Agency at 876-948-2841; 876-948-2842; 876-922-8857, 876-922-5615, 876-922-1751.
Police strengthens domestic violence intervention centres
The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has undertaken a review of its domestic violence intervention policy and protocols.
More than 300 supervisors and managers have had domestic violence intervention training since 2020. This is in addition to the mandatory domestic violence module in place for all police recruits in basic training at the National Police College. Six new domestic violence intervention centres are being opened in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, and four facilities are already in place at designated police stations where professional volunteers provide counselling to persons involved in domestic conflict.
Contact the JCF Domestic Violence Intervention Centres:
Yallahs – (876) 982-5072
Morant Bay – (876) 516-6233 or (876) 326-5054
Matilda's Corner – (876) 978-6003 or (876) 836-1035
Constant Spring- (876) 702-5120 or (876) 702-5121.
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