Domestic Violence can be defined as violence perpetrated by individuals who are related through intimacy, blood or law. It is a form of gender-based violence and may include; emotional/mental, sexual and/or physical violence. While the most common type of domestic violence is intimate partner violence or spousal abuse, other forms may include; child abuse, sibling abuse, same-sex abuse and elder abuse.
Both men and women can be victims of domestic violence. However, in Jamaica, women are the main victims while men are the main perpetrators. Domestic violence is often confused with disagreement, as ‘all couples in a normal relationship argue’. Abuse and disagreement are at different ends of the spectrum. While contrasting opinions are normal and acceptable in relationships, abuse is not. Abuse is not a disagreement; instead, it is the use of financial deprivation, physical, sexual or emotional violence or threats in order to control the other person’s opinions, emotions and behaviour. Here are many factors which influence a person to stay in an abusive relationship. Some of which includes; fear, shame, denial, financial dependence, religion or the desire to keep a family together.
Forms of Domestic Violence
- Physical Abuse – This is the act of intentionally applying force to someone’s body in an attempt to harm them. This may include but is not limited to kicking, choking, biting or hitting.
- Financial deprivation – This happens when the abuser controls or takes the victim’s money in order to oppress them.
- Emotional/psychological abuse – This manifests in the forms of verbally attacking, belittling, insulting or ridiculing someone. This also includes undermining their self-image, self-worth and self-confidence. Even purposely disregarding or downplaying someone, and their efforts are seen as abuse.
- Sexual abuse – This is forcing a partner into unwanted sexual practices which may include; incest, rape or inappropriate touching.
The Cycle of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence often follows a repeating cycle in an abusive relationship. According to the National Centre of Health Research, the cycle is as follows:
- Tension building phase – Tension increases and there is a breakdown in communication. The victim becomes fearful or feels like they are “walking on eggshells” around the abuser.
- Abusive incident – This is the part of the cycle when the abuser physically lashes out at the victim.
- Honeymoon phase – During the honeymoon phase, the abuser may apologize, buy gifts, or be extra affectionate to “make up” for the abuse. Many will promise to change, promise to stop abusing or promise that it will never happen again. Once the honeymoon phase is over, the tension building phase begins again, and the comforting promises the abuser made will be broken.
What Should A Victim Do?
- Go to the nearest police station and report the crime or threat
- Tell a close friend or relative
- Recovery takes time and the process is different for every survivor.
- The Crisis Centre provides specially trained people who will listen and help.
The Domestic Violence Act
In Jamaica, The Domestic Violence Act (1995) Amended 2004 by the Ministry of Justice, is gender-neutral. The Act covers use or threat to violence against, or cause physical or mental abuse of both past and current spouses, visiting partners, persons in common-law relationships, children or dependents of the household. Certain orders that offer remedies to the abused include; the Protection Order, Occupation Order and Ancillary Order. Sexual abuses, however, are covered under the Sexual Offences Act 2009.
Domestic abuse is a
serious and widespread crime. When we describe domestic abuse as a ‘private
family matter’, we minimise, condone and permit it. It happens every single day
worldwide to both men and women of all ages and backgrounds. It is important
that we break the cycle of gender-based violence. As represented by the Bureau
of Gender Affairs, we agree that there is ‘No excuse for Abuse.’