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Victims of domestic abuse urged to take action

Published:Monday | February 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

AN EXPLOSIVE temper, a history of violence and a controlling personality are three of the clearest warning signals for domestic disputes.

Several clinical psychologists interviewed by The Gleaner warned that people should acknowledge these signs early and not be afraid to speak up.

"Don't lie about it, be honest with yourself and speak up. Silence is a feeder for abuse," said clinical psychologist Georgia Rose, MSc.

"Acknowledge that the problem is there and that it is serious and enduring, because it's gonna be there tomorrow, no matter how he cries and apologies and buys flowers, it is going to happen again," said psychologist Karen Richards.

Police statistics show that 197 persons were killed in domestic violence between 2007 and last year. A breakdown shows that 65 were killed last year, 61 in 2008 and 71 the previous year.

Another important sign, according to psychologist Doneisha Burke, is a deterioration in the quality of the relationship, which leads to frequent quarrels over simple things.

"There is frustration because of a lack of communication. So because of this, you have arguments about financial problems, especially in this recession period, and people might turn to substances such as alcohol, which impairs their judgement," Burke said.

All three psychologists agreed that paying attention to the signs are important because, as Richards explained, domestic disputes do not happen in isolation.

"Someone may be verbally abusive at first, then they become emotionally abusive, then it leads to sexual abuse and people are forced into things they did not consent to," she said.

In addition, Richards said people with a history of domestic violence or people who are unable to control angry outbursts are almost certain to relapse.

"If a man beats once, he will beat again, and all the available evidence points to this," Richards stated.

Staying for the sake of the kids is a bad idea, said Richards.

"When you do this, you are forcing your children to live in an atmosphere of violence and you are telling boys (that) this is the way to treat women. So you could stay and damage the children," she said.

She suggested that people in these situations reach out to the Victim Support Unit within the Ministry of National Security, Family Life Ministries and private mental-health professionals for assistance.

Here are some signs which clinical psychologists believe could lead to domestic disputes.

1. A partner who is controlling.

2. A partner who has an explosive temper.

3. A partner who has a history of domestic violence.

4. A deterioration in the quality of a relationship.

5. A partner who is disrespectful.

6. A partner who is verbally abusive (this usually escalates to physical abuse).

7. A partner who is extremely jealous.