Editorial: Domestic violence has to be stopped
Perhaps most people in Barbados will agree with the recent suggestion made by the chairperson of The SAVE Foundation, Liesel Daisley, that domestic violence be treated as a criminal act.
While we support her proposition, we feel that a few other things should first be done as legislation alone cannot be the solution for this problem.
Indeed, Ms Daisley correctly spoke to the issue of many people not knowing of their rights under the existing Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act and we do not expect this situation to be cleared up by either strengthening these laws or instituting tougher new ones.
Domestic violence is not an issue only of violence against women but against men, gays and transgender people as well. It involves situations where people are being beaten emotionally and physically daily by someone who claims to love them.
It is a real scourge and it will call for a united effort to help stamp it out. There must be public education by organizations as varied as the churches, SAVE Foundation, the police, the legal fraternity and of course the community in which the abusers and victims live must all work towards one common goal.
Before we get to the stage of making domestic violence a criminal act, we need to hear some of the stories of the victims, the horrible experiences they have encountered, their survival systems and most importantly how they have rebuilt their lives free of violence and fear.
Let’s use the social media to reach out. We may be surprised to realize that abusers and victims are not always who we expected them to be.
Two groups will be critical in our efforts to combat domestic violence; the police and parents and guardians. Our police service must have well trained officers to deal with victims of abuse; rape, incest and violence against children and of course domestic abuse. They must be sympathetic, caring and protecting, while at the same time ensuring the full weight of the law is brought against the abusers.
Parents have a special duty to watch the prevalence of teen dating violence and not leave it lurking in the shadows since it is from this early stage that the problem is not only manifested but can fester and become a lifelong problem.
It is important to talk with your teenager about healthy relationships before they start dating so they may avoid toxic relationships.
There has been a lot of apathy on this issue of domestic violence, with abuse of women in particular often just broached. We have often tolerated the scourge, not by denouncing the unacceptable behaviour but rather making some silly remark. Our inertia to deal with the problem must not continue.