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Jamaica's problem with domestic abuse

Published:Thursday | April 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

It is obvious from recent statistics that Jamaica is having a problem with domestic violence control. The Victim Support Unit (VSU) in Portmore, St Catherine, has reported that since 2005, a total of 22,739 cases of violence were seen by officers working from the 13 VSU offices in Jamaica, and there were 9,625 incidents of domestic violence in 2007, a 29.2 per cent rise over the previous year.

"Women are more vulnerable to becoming victims of violence, as the seven groups which fall under the VSU are rape, carnal abuse, incest, attempted rape, indecent assault, domestic violence and murder," said Carol Palmer, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice.

It is clear, however, that the Ministry of Justice has itself failed to shield women from abusive and violent men by not implementing appropriate measures to protect them.

Protecting victims

Below, I have listed three things they could have done to protect victims.

1. The police must prosecute: Research will show that very few battered women will actually press charges because of fear for their own lives and the lives of their children. Also, on average, a woman will leave a violent relationships six to eight times before she leaves permanently, which means, by the time she actually reports the crime, it may have happened several times before. It is, therefore, very unreasonable to ask a battered woman, immediately after a violent episode, to take legal action against her lover, and for the Ministry of Justice to expect this seems sexist.

2. Anger-management courses: Abusive men must be sent to anger-management courses where they will learn about their violent tendencies and why they should avoid any serious intimate relationship until they have received sufficiently appropriate therapy.

I am sure many psychologists will be quick to point out that abusers are more likely to hurt those they claim to love the deepest. This is because these men have grown up to accept love and violence dancing intimately in their psyche, usually, because they were abused by someone they loved deeply, such as their father or mother or both.

3. Mandatory arrest: For domestic violence cases, a policy of mandatory arrest with a no-drop prosecution should be implemented. This will at least ensure many battered women's safety. A battered woman must know that calling the police will result in concrete action and it will be out of her hands regarding her abuser's prosecution, thereby releasing her of the fear of facing her abuser in court. A clear message must be sent to such men that violence as a means of resolving an issue is not an option.

I am , etc.,