Author’s note: This blog discusses domestic violence. if you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and wish to seek help, please see the table at the end of the blog and call the number in your country. Do you know of other resources? please include them in the comments section.
I knew that writing a blog on intimate partner violence in the Caribbean was not an easy task. It goes against the grain of my culture to speak of such “unpleasantness” (my mother’s words not mine). So, I decided to enlist the help of my colleagues from the countries for which we have recent data. Here are excerpts of their testimonies:
My next-door neighbor killed his common law wife in a very gruesome manner. They argued but they showed affection publicly, hand holding, etc. Therefore, this was never expected.
I have had family members who have been affected and, in many cases, they are afraid to share this fact because of embarrassment and fear. They alienated themselves from friends and family so that they are not questioned.
Many women, and men, are in abusive relationships, whether they are conscious of it or not, and some were able to leave… yet without the psychological support to regain an emotional stability.
Domestic partners are using more discrete methods of abuse and murder which are harder to identify by external persons.
I was abused as a child and married a man who continued the abuse. Now I am afraid of having long-term relationships and I hope my daughter never suffers as I did.
Most acts of violence against women and girls (VAWG) are committed by their male partner or spouse. According to the World Health Organization, globally, 35% of women (1 in 3) have suffered from intimate partner violence (IPV); and 38%of murders of women are committed by a spouse or partner.
Caribbean countries have made extraordinary progress towards gender equality –in education and labor force participation– on par or better than most countries worldwide. However, there is still work to be done in the elimination of violence, particularly gender-based violence in the region.
The facts are cold and clear
In the five Caribbean countries for which we have current data, emotional violence is the most reported form of IPV, with a prevalence rate of nearly 40 percent in the Dominican Republic and 35% in Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The prevalence of physical violence ranges from 18.6% in Haiti to 28% in Trinidad and Tobago. The rate of sexual violence in the Dominican Republic is nearly double that of Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
Studies have shown that gender socialization, particularly where manhood is associated with power and womanhood with subordination, is undeniably linked to IPV violence. Evidence-based reports confirm that rigid gender norms contribute to men’s use of violence against female partners. For example, a study conducted in 2014, found that 37.7% of Bahamian male respondents and 12.3% of female respondents agreed that men should discipline their female partners, which was reflective of people’s overall perceptions of violence against women and girls in the country. Additionally, more than 56% of Barbadian children indicated agreement with the statement that most boys hit their girlfriends. Nearly 51% of youngsters thought that most husbands hit their wives.
Several programs that challenge and transform harmful norms on behavior and attitudes of manhood and womanhood have been evaluated to be successful. Among these best practices are sustainable interventions that can be replicated in the Caribbean. These include targeting individuals such as Program H and Program P; communities and schools programs, for example SASA!, Stepping Stones, Gender Equality Movement in Schools (GEMS); and campaigns and media interventions, such as Sexto Sentido, “Somos Diferentes, Somos Iguales” (SDSI) and an initiative carried out by Innovations for Poverty Action in rural Uganda. Here at the Inter-American Development Bank, we are working to prevent and end violence against women by including men in the conversation and bringing to the forefront of the discussion harmful gender-based attitudes and behaviors and possible ways to transform them.
Intimate partner violence is not close to home, it is a violation of what a home should be –a safe place. It is a persisting obstacle to achieving equality and development, as well as to the fulfillment of women and girls’ human rights. And it is also about us, as family members and friends. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and wish to seek help, please see the table at the end of the blog and call the number in your country. Do you know of other resources? Write them in the comments section.