Secret beatings - Batterers leaving fewer scars ... but police say they can still be charged
Trench Town resident Orlando Blake* admits he has physically abused women, and has in fact been taken into police custody after badly beating a female in the past.
He said he later changed his method of disciplining women after realising that domestic violence is being taken more seriously by law-enforcement officials and others in the society.
"Right now is 25 [years] to life, so every man running from those things. A man don't even want to hit a woman with something right now, he would rather use his hand and give her a little box or a little thump so that nobody can see any bruises or mark," he told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said he used to physically abuse his intimate partners for not following simple orders, and he finds that this was the same reason given by other men who were known abusers.
"So if a man say don't go behind his rules and she go behind that rule, the man going to want to give her discipline," he said.
"When the woman them get unruly and decide that one man is not enough for them, they want a next one and we go and find out those things, you know it is a next problem."
But, Orlando claimed, his days of physically abusing women are over.
"I am not going to get into any problem for any woman right now, so when a woman want to talk, I just try my best to walk her out or to leave the area that she is in," he said.
A yearlong study that was started last November by researchers at the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), Regional Coordinating Office at the University of the West Indies, found that several participants believe that women today have more rights than men. The participants, who were part of focus groups organised by the institute, cited the clampdown on domestic violence as proof of this.
VIOLENCE SOMETIMES NECESSARY
"The men indicated that the police no longer excused domestic violence as natural and necessary and, in order to not get caught up with the law, men who beat women have to make effort not to leave physical marks or scars on the women's bodies," reported Warren Thompson, a Phd student at the IGDS, who helped to conduct the study.
"The group indicated that violence against women was not right, but was sometimes necessary or just happened because women made men angry," he said.
But while some men have resorted to using other inconspicuous methods of abusing women to avoid criminal charges, Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant said the Domestic Violence Act of 1996 has made provisions for every type of domestic violence.
"Domestic violence is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, psychological abuse and it is, of course, physical abuse to include battering and rape," she said.
"The law recognises that verbal abuse is bad, and that is one of the unfortunate ways that people suffer domestic violence. So if somebody is cussing you out and treat you badly, you can do something about it," she said.
Such an individual can seek to get a protection or occupation order through the courts.
"Before 1996, there wasn't a lot that we could do in terms of getting people out of a house. There was no legal basis to get an abuser out of a house, so you normally would say to the victim, 'bwoy, leave', which placed all of the burden on the victim," said the senior police officer.
"Now, the Domestic Violence Act of 1996 (amended 2004) gives the victim legal protection by way of law," she said.
She said the police force has engaged in a number of domestic-violence workshops, and had in fact hosted a series of these workshops in Trench Town and surrounding areas in 2010 to highlight the issue. Workshops have also been hosted with members of the force to help them get a better understanding of the legal framework surrounding domestic violence.
"I am happy to hear that people are taking it serious, but what we want people to recognise, and the general public, is that even if you are not being battered and the abuse is such that it is causing you distress that your home is no longer harmonious, you still have remedy where you can go to the court for the protection and the occupation order," she said.
*Name changed on request.