Home in hell!
In a society such as Jamaica, women's advocate and former president of Woman Inc, Joyce Hewett, is warning that the lives of most women in domestic-violence situations are at risk whether they leave or stay in their abusive relationships.
Speaking against the backdrop of several cases in recent time where women were killed by former or current lovers who then committed suicide, Hewett contends that leaving is not always as easy as it might seem to the casual onlooker.
"They are most vulnerable when they try to leave because of the level of possession and ownership that is at work in domestic-violence situations," said Hewett.
"It is all about power and control, so when she leaves the situation, she strips the abuser of his power and control, and then he totally loses it, because all he wants back is to totally own her, control her," added Hewett.
According to Hewett, the reality is that many of these abused women are living in fear.
"It is this fear that forces some women to beg a judge to drop the charges against a man who almost took her life, or for a woman who has spent time housed at the Women's Shelter to go back to her abuser after a few weeks.
"Sometimes she has nowhere else to go. Even if it is the shelter, the shelter is an emergency temporary accommodation, and in this country, people just don't have alternatives as they might in Canada and the United Kingdom and the United States. They just don't have anywhere to go," said Hewett.
The long-time advocate for women's right charged that some women do not even realise that they are in an abusive relationship despite all the evidence.
REASONS FOR STAYING
"We know that there is something that happens between two people, and even when society sees it from the outside and cannot understand why the woman stays, she stays for any variety of reasons, and more often than not, she unlike those of us who can see from the outside, she doesn't recognise the risk or the dangers that when the situation escalates, she can lose her life."
According to outreach counsellor at Woman Inc, Angela Hall-Ingram, there are varied reasons why women stay in abusive relationships.
Hall-Ingram said these range from the fact that she has children or own assets with her abuser to the reality that she is not working and has no financial resources to support herself.
"If a woman is not working and is dependent on her spouse, she is going to go back at some point in time, because she has no means of supporting herself, and if she doesn't have any type of support, be it families or friends or whatever, then it doesn't leave her any choice but to go back, but then you will have those women who can probably do better, meaning they will move on," said Hall-Ingram.
"Sometimes it's the plain I-love-you kind of thing, sometimes it's because of the kids," added Hall-Ingram.
She said that while the women are at the victim support shelter, efforts are made to contact their families to see if they can house them or support them in other ways after they leave.
In the meantime, Hewett argued that society can do more to help battered women by encouraging men to be more sensitive, for starters.
She said that Woman Inc will be implementing a domestic-violence intervention programme in the coming weeks that is geared towards teaching members of the police force and front-line workers how to deal with domestic-violence cases.
"It's only hopeless when there is no intervention, and I don't mean intervention to make them get along and go off like a happy married couple, but intervention where the man gets help to understand that he himself needs to be able to have some level of self-adequacy and self-caring about himself so that he doesn't continue to be abusive," said Hewett.