EDITORIAL: Claims of abuse must be taken seriously
A NUMBER of international news reports so far this year have related to incidents of domestic violence. The savagery inflicted by the perpetrators in some instances would have left a sickening feeling even here.
The reports from India, South Africa and Brazil of domestic violence have been bone-chilling. These are the kinds of incidents that we should not want to happen here.
Yes, most people living in Barbados must by now have been sensitized about the relevant laws and the evil of domestic abuse – verbal or physical. The messages have been consistent and loud and from varied sources: SAVE Foundation, Bureau of Gender Affairs, National Organization of Women, Men’s Educational Support Association and the churches, with the Anglican Church undertaking a major initiative. Clearly the message has been lost on some.
Many a family across Barbados will agree with our argument. Just ask the relatives of Brenda Belle, who was killed last week.
We need to first appreciate that this is not an issue that involves only men abusing women and we recognize that it is not always easy for the victim to leave that abusive partner. This has nothing to do with the victim being weak.
Law enforcement must reach out, in a meaningful and caring manner, to such victims when they need help. They must not be brushed aside with some insensitive remark. That is why it is heartening to hear of the plans by the police to put clear guidelines in place to deal with the way they handle cases of domestic abuse.
But more is required of Commissioner Dottin and his officers. While we accept that they are under pressure to produce results with limited manpower, it is necessary that they consider the establishment of a unit specifically to deal with domestic abuse.
We must understand that this is not a private family matter. So when the abused or their relatives complain, the response must be taken as seriously as if it was against someone brandishing a firearm or those promoting the illegal drugs trade.
It is established that many domestic violence victims do not report their traumatic experiences to any authority. Some live in fear of reprisal and threats; some have economic dependence on the aggressor; some simply do not know who to turn to outside of the police, do not know of their rights or the available options; some simply live with self-blame.
We must enforce the existing laws against domestic violence as we try to deal with other types of violence. People, including those from marginalized sections of the community – gays and lesbians among them – must be encouraged to report cases of violence so that they can be dealt with according to the law.
The support must be there.