By Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor
The word family, instead of domestic, is more commonly used to highlight the gruesome fact that many individuals all over this nation are subject to family abuse, relationships are being destroyed, and in some incidents, lives are lost. Domestic or family violence can be easy for people to ignore as it often happens without any witnesses and other persons may doubt the veracity of the offence, sanitising the criminal act and hiding the ugly truths by using words such as ‘discipline’ when physical abuse is carried out or portraying the perpetrator as “a good man; he never raise his hand before; kind mentor”.
Do ‘good and kind men’ beat and subjugate others? Anyone who threatens, intimidates, and beats you does not love you. Get that in your head – mother, sister, daughter, girlfriend, partner, spouse.
In their fits of rages, wanting to show how powerful they are and how sorry you should be to have crossed them or gotten them angry, they whip out their tools – belt/cutlass/fists/wood and vent their anger.
WEAK men. Powerless women and children. Unfortunate, orphaned children left behind with a legacy filled with bitter memories. SHAME!
Violence in families is not okay, and it should never be ignored. Can you imagine the last minutes before that child took her last breath, bloodied and beaten, and like George Floyd, possibly calling out for her mother?
When the back of the defenceless mother was hacked open with a cutlass and in such excruciating pain, wondering what she had done to deserve such pain, she died.
And yet persons continue to shift blame and sanitise the event, casting aspersions on the dead – “young girls difficult now, yuh know. I sure she do something bad, had a boyfriend, or run away”.
Or seeking refuge at your family home, families who should be the protectors and safe havens, only to be turned away – “Is married people business. Fix it!” SHAME!
Truth about Domestic Violence
The ugly truths about family/domestic violence, and the continued use of excessive corporal punishment in homes, by both men and women behind closed doors, must be exposed. If you see it, say it!
Expose those perpetrators who hide behind the cloak of silence, hoping that you will never expose them for fear of retaliation: battered women who in turn, abuse their children; fathers, some of them from wealthy homes – doctors and businesspeople – who beat their grown-up daughters still, as reported to us on the CIT (Crisis Intervention hotline). Tell someone.
Family violence is a crime. Report it. But do the police and courts take family violence as seriously as they should? Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence, seek help of any sort, or report the crime, and less than 10 per cent of those women go to the police.
One woman reported that her husband physically threw her out of her home at eight months pregnant and beat her in front of her three young children. The police who eventually came told her to leave the home (and go where?) and did nothing else but cautioned the man.
So that when we hear that reporting has lessened, is it that cases of family violence have decreased or that persons do not have confidence in the present legal system of securing their lives?
Family violence affects everyone. At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, I had written an article – ‘When home is not a safe place’ (CN March 22, 2020). I echo the same sentiments again.
Some of our homes in Trinidad and Tobago are violent and abusive places, where physical, emotional and psychological wounds are inflicted on family members daily, and many times on powerless and helpless children.
Children are more likely to be physically and emotionally abused in homes where there is violence and in addition, they have to endure the consequences of the dysfunctional and abusive relationships between their parents and/or caregivers.
Not all family violence is physical. There is also the psychological and emotional abuse that does not leave the physical scars of cuts and bruises and broken bones.
The repeated putdowns and name-calling, intimidation, and harassment, make victims feel bad about themselves, leaving long-lasting emotional scars. As a society, we must challenge present attitudes to family violence in the home and change the narrative – it is a criminal offence and abusers are criminals who have committed a crime.
Some recommendations for change include increased funding for organisations and communities that already play a critical role in preventing and responding to crises of family violence. Improve and increase the provisions for hotlines and helplines, and the psychosocial and financial support for families and children.
Violence against women and children and family violence in general, should be a key part of the government’s agenda and national response plans as they seek to increase public awareness programmes, and make key changes that would address and make redress for the prevention and intervention of family violence in our homes.