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Ending Family Violence

July 16 2018 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender and Diversity Specialist

The issue of intimate partner violence was highlighted in the recent publication of the National Women’s Health Survey (WHS) from Trinidad and Tobago.  The joint study[1] by the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank,  provides the first nationally representative estimates of the prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence against women in Trinidad and Tobago.

The data found that 30 percent of ever-partnered women experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. About half the women in the country experience physical, sexual, emotional, or financial violence during their lifetime.

Risk factors associated with IPV include: lower education (female and partner), cohabitation without marriage, rural residency, younger age, non-consensual marriage, having been pregnant, having experienced or witnessed violence in childhood, substance abuse by the partner and the partner being unemployed and having been in prior relationships.

The report documents the negative consequences for women and their children and the most common responses and coping mechanisms. One in three women remained quiet about their experience and most survivors did not seek or receive assistance for their situation. Women most often sought help from their personal contacts (mostly their mothers) rather than police, social services or other entities adequately resourced to address IPV. Several factors precluded women from accessing help including fear, shame, and the normalcy associated with violence.

In 2016, approximately one in three murders of women in Trinidad and Tobago were associated with intimate partner or family violence. However, this violence also leads to other important, less visible outcomes. Survivors were more than twice as likely as non-survivors to report poor health, difficulty performing activities, and suicidal thoughts.

Women who seek to leave abusive situations need safe, stable, long-term housing for themselves and their children, assistance with job placement (including skills training), and financial support. Perhaps most importantly, they need assurance that they will receive protection to leave. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service has taken a crucial step to strengthen its response by creating the Victim and Witness Support Unit and domestic violence response training for officers.

The study highlights how important each of us is to the safety of those who are experiencing violence. When women share their experiences, they turn to those closest to them. We must listen and support them in making choices that could literally save their lives.

What steps are being taken in your country to support women and address the cycle of violence?  What can you do as a leader?

[1] https://publications.iadb.org/handle/11319/8787#sthash.JNBkALjx.dpuf

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JACQUELINE BARNES - Reply

In light of the sensitiveness of this topic, as a leader, one should provide a sense of compassion to all individuals around.

One should ensure an atmosphere of confidentiality, be non-judgemental and allow for clear communications.

The develpoment of support groups and a means for legitimate action(s) to aid and difuse acts against abused individuals, without them fearing any repercussions for speaking out.

Carole Houlihan - Reply

Thanks for your comment Jacqueline. You emphasize the importance of  being open and sensitive to the needs of  staff who may need a sympathetic ear, advice and  and concrete support. It is difficult for overworked and stressed leaders to provide this support at times, but important to create that atmosphere of  confidentiality and caring.