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Lecturer urges assistance for abused, pregnant women

Published:Wednesday | April 13, 2016 | 4:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

University lecturer Cynthia Pitter is calling for the Government to provide assistance to the many Jamaican women who are being battered physically and otherwise by their spouses, especially at a most vulnerable stage in their lives - during pregnancy.

According to Pitter, lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI) School of Nursing (Mona), more than a third (36 per cent) of the women interviewed during a study she conducted in 2014 disclosed that their spouses had beaten them during pregnancy.

Pitter, who is pursuing doctoral studies at the Institute of Gender and Development at Mona, on Monday shared some insight into the frightening incidents of violence against women who were patients at two major Corporate Area

hospitals.

According to her, the many disturbing stories of abuse recounted by the 277 women pointed to alarming issues of domestic violence deeply rooted in local cultural norms, a practice that has been accepted as normal by family members and close relatives.

CULTURE OF SILENCE

"When you interview a 22-year-old (victim) and she tells you she has been living with her boyfriend for the last seven years and members of the community know about it, that speaks a lot to the culture of silence, which we have allowed to become the norm," said Pitter.

"There was a 19-year-old in particular who told me that her mother advised her to date older men because she (the mother) wants to ensure that when she dies, there will be someone to take care of her. These are some serious cultural issues that we have to break."

The lecturer lamented: "Some 48 per cent of them were living in common-law relationships, and about 35 per cent of them were in a relationship less than a year. We also saw where 70 per cent of the pregnancies were unplanned, while 48 per cent of them were unemployed. What stood out for me however were the cultural norms that are so heavily embedded in the society and which are huge contributors to some of the problems we face."

Pitter, who is also a trained midwife, pointed out that medical staff who come into contact with the battered women during their hospital stay are aware of the trauma suffered by patients, but are unable to offer much (more) help than counselling.

In addition, the cash-strapped health sector does not have in place the human resource or equipment critical to providing any real help for these abused women.

The health professional is therefore not optimistic that the requisite infrastructure to rescue these victims of domestic violence will be put in place any time soon.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com