Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Dealing squarely with domestic violence

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2010 | 4:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Kindly allow me the opportunity to respond to the 'noteworthy' letter that was written by Petrina Francis, senior public relations officer at the Ministry of Justice. I would like to apologise for the inaccuracy of naming Carol Palmer as the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, instead of Robert Rainford, who is her replacement.

However, I would like to point out that Carol Palmer was indeed the permanent secretary at the time the named statistic was made public and she did in fact make the claim that women are more likely to be abused.

Following my letter to The Gleaner on April 15 titled 'Jamaica's problem with domestic abuse', I received several emails from anonymous women. They were thankful for my courage and hoped for further research and investigation by the Ministry of Justice. So it is indeed, unfortunate, that the essence of the letter was largely overlooked or, if it wasn't, that the commentary made no mention of it.

No state protection

Additionally, from more recent research, I have also uncovered the following United Nations document: Jamaica: Domestic Violence, Including Legislation and Availability of State Protection (2008-2009), which was published on January 11.

The document clearly points out that a lobby for women's rights in Jamaica called Women Inc stated: "State protection is 'not available'" to victims of domestic violence due to "massive resource constraints" on the part of the Government (December 1, 2009) and "furthermore, unless the victim is a witness who qualifies for protection under the witness protection programme, there is no other form of 'state protection' " (December 1, 2009).

Some have pointed to the use of the statistic in my letter to the editor as biased and named me as a feminist. Stating that 80 per cent of homicide victims in Jamaica are men; most dying at the hands of men, but some at the hands of women as well. The use of this statistic is misleading and only lends support to male batterers. In 2009, 165 women were killed, two fewer than the previous year and domestic violence still being the primary motive for killing, the mean age being 30.

Margo Wilson of the Psychology Department at the McMaster University has pointed to the fact that "unlike men, women who kill do so after years of suffering physical violence; after they have exhausted all available sources of assistance; when they feel trapped; and because they fear for their own lives. The men almost never do that."

Redefinition necessary

Even the statistics reported by the Victim Support Unit appear to be rudimentary. It does not include rape, carnal abuse, incest, attempted rape or indecent assault as domestic violence. These are all violent acts and, as such, emotional, sexual and physical violence must be punished in the same way. The Ministry of Justice would do well to redefine the meaning of 'domestic violence'.

Lack of proper funding for women shelters and an obvious absence of sex education classes in the curriculum of many high schools have only added insult to injury.

Courses to help male batterers are sufficient for mild cases of domestic violence, but they prove unfruitful for men with a history of violence. Domestic violence research analyst Andrew Klein reported to the US Congress in 2004 the ineffectiveness of male batterer programmes, "as such", he said, "the US Justice Department will no longer fund them". In brief, quit blaming the victim and stop enabling the batterer.

This is a real problem that many Jamaican women and children face on a daily basis. It is time we stop hiding our faces like the proverbial ostrich and send a clear message to batterers that violence is not an acceptable alternative to conflict management.

I am, etc.,

KAREEN HEWITT

Kingston