By Dawn Stewart, Bsc, MPA, PHD
We must take action for victims and survivors of domestic abuse in addition, to the prevention of
abuse in our communities! We can end the cycle of violence!! We must end the cycle of violence!!!
The darkness of abuse that hovers over the women, girls and children of Guyana is implausible. The question is, do we as a nation understand the culture of abuse and if so, are we prepared to stop the circle of violence?
I was driven to write this narrative by many factors, I sat back and read the newspapers, coached, counseled, interviewed and worked with abuse in various areas in Guyana, but nothing has made me angrier than the abuse dealt on the 16-year-old female, who it has been alleged was caught in a compromising position with a male worker.
I truly believe after my visit to this young lady that every woman, every mother, every sister, every brother, every father should be angry. Angry about the treatment, disrespect, and abuse that our women often experience in silence. Until we are angry enough to stop the cycle of violence we will see more of our daughters suffering the fate of so many women we read about in the news and the others we never see or hear from. Today it’s them – the other family, but remember tomorrow it could be you or your family!!!
I had an opportunity to read some blogs on this particular story in the news and to my surprise and disgust, many persons mainly women sought to blame the victim for the horrific abuse she received at the hands of her alleged lover. For this I am compelled to attempt to educate my sisters and brothers on abuse.
WHY DO PEOPLE STAY IN VIOLENT RELATIONSHIPS?
Although there is a myth that people, especially women, stay indefinitely in abusive relationships, the truth is that most people do eventually leave. Leaving is a process, though, and for some people it involves going back to the abusive partner and then leaving again. There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship for a while, a few include:
• They fear the abuser, who may have threatened to kill them, or someone they love if they leave.
• The abuser has succeeded in isolating them, personally and economically, to the point that they feel they have nowhere to go.
• Their partner has succeeded in systematically dismantling their self-esteem so that they feel they are at fault or deserve the abuse and do not have the right to leave.
Myth or Fact
Persons who are abused look for abuse, they like it, abusers are usually totally strangers, in many cases alcohol/drugs does play a role in abuse.
Cycle of violence
They are usually four phases of abuse:
1. Tension Building (tension increases, Breakdown of communication, victim becomes fearful and feels the need to placate the abuser)
2. Incident (verbal, emotional, physical abuse, anger, blaming, arguing, threats and Intimidation)
3. Reconciliation (Abuser apologies, give excuses, blames the victim, denies abuse occurred, or says it wasn’t as bad as the victim claims.
4. Calm (Incident is “forgotten”, no abuse is taking place. The “Honeymoon” Phase.
Steps in abuse
Abuse — The abuser lashes out with aggressive or violent behaviour. The abuse is a power play designed to show the victim “who is boss.”
Guilt — After the abusive episode, the abuser feels guilt, but not over what he’s done to the victim. The guilt is over the possibility of being caught and facing consequences.
Rationalization or excuses — The abuser rationalizes what he’s done. He may come up with a string of excuses or blame the victim for his own abusive behavior—anything to shift responsibility from himself.
“Normal” behaviour — The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
Fantasy and planning — The abuser begins to fantasize about abusing his victim again, spending a lot of time thinking about what she’s done wrong and how he’ll make her pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
Set-up — The abuser sets up the victim and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing her.
SIGNS OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings…Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior
Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
Does your partner:
Humiliate, criticize, or yell at you?
Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
Ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
Blame you for his own abusive behaviour?
See you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?
Your Partner’s Violent Behaviour or Threats…Your Partner’s Controlling Behaviour
Does your partner:
Have a bad and unpredictable temper?
Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
Force you to have sex?
Destroy your belongings?
Does your partner:
Act excessively jealous and possessive?
Control where you go or what you do?
Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
Constantly check up on you?
Types of domestic violence and abuse
There are different types of domestic abuse, including emotional, physical, sexual, and economic abuse. Many abusers behave in ways that include more than one type of domestic abuse, and the boundaries between some of these behaviors may overlap.
Emotional or psychological abuse
Emotional or psychological abuse can be verbal or nonverbal. Its aim is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing. Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence.
You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so. Furthermore, emotional abuse usually worsens over time, often escalating to physical battery.
When people talk about domestic violence, they are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. There’s a broad range of behaviors that come under the heading of physical abuse, including hitting, grabbing, choking, throwing things, and assault with a weapon.
Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.
Sexual abuse is common in abusive relationships. According to the US National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, between one-third and one-half of all battered women are raped by their partners at least once during their relationship. Remember any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, women whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.
Economic or financial abuse
Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he will frequently hurt you to do that. In addition to hurting you emotionally and physically, an abusive partner may also hurt you in the purse. Economic of financial abuse includes:
* Controlling the finances.
* Withholding money or credit cards.
* Giving you an allowance.
* Making you account for every penny you spend.
* Stealing from you or taking your money.
* Exploiting your assets for personal gain.
* Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
* Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
* Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
Domestic violence has warning signs so take precautions
Call the police; Human services hotline and or supporting NGO’S in your community if you suspect a case of domestic violence.
It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of domestic violence and abuse. If you witness a number of warning signs in a friend, family member, or co-worker, you can reasonably suspect domestic abuse.
* Frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
* Frequent and sudden absences from work or school
* Frequent, harassing phone calls from the partner
* Fear of the partner, references to the partner’s anger
* Personality changes (e.g. an outgoing woman becomes withdrawn)
* Excessive fear of conflict
* Submissive behavior, lack of assertiveness
* Isolation from friends and family
* Insufficient resources to live (money, credit cards, car)
* Depression, crying, low self-esteem
Reporting suspected domestic abuse is important. If you’re afraid of getting involved, remember that the report should be confidential and everything possible should be done to protect your privacy. You should not have to give your name, and your suspicions should be investigated before anyone is taken into custody. Most important, you can protect the victim from further harm by calling for help.
We must demand and make our police force and others agencies responsible for our safety accountable. In the same vein we must assist the relevant authorities with the investigation and be our sisters’ keepers. Lastly we must advocate and lobby our parliamentarians
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