Over time, numerous cases of domestic violence have been reported in the Guyanese media. Many persons were brutally killed in some instances. Unfortunately, it continues, despite awareness efforts and the much-touted training of law enforcement officers, who are expected to be the first step of recourse with regard to the lodging of complaints.
There is more than a subtle irony in the continuance of this societal scourge, in spite of the relentless efforts and the plethora of available mechanisms to inform and educate. The problem is much larger than what appears in the news, including the social media outlets, as many cases go unreported. This, therefore, gives much credence to the appearance of an underestimated reality.
Many reasons have been promulgated for what can deter an abused victim from seeking the intervention of the law. Among them, in no specific order of impact, are aspects of culture; shame; dependency and its redounding lack of empowerment for some; and the lack of confidence in law enforcement itself, precipitated from the reported trivialising of the issue in some instances.
One may posit that education is a primary concern. On the other hand, one can argue that education has been more profound in recent times. Pertinent would be to ask the question whether the other factors subvert the heeding of educational messaging; while the answer may be assumed, it would make for interesting and informative research.
As that is contemplated, the magnitude of the impact on children cannot be underestimated. Many have cruelly been made witnesses to the horrific assaults on their mothers and, to a lesser extent, their fathers. Those ghastly images, especially for some who watched as life was snuffed out, are not only lasting, but profoundly traumatising.
When young minds are so broadsided, the impact, if not managed, lingers for life. Not that it is erasable, but with meaningful and sustained interventions, the trauma can potentially be mitigated, thereby aiding in better shaping of lives. The entire spectrum of what therefore constitutes counselling then becomes vital. This naturally raises the question of the availability of adequate intervening mechanisms.
While it is always heartening to hear that surviving victims and witnesses to such horrific incidents would be counselled, it would be very informative, for the benefit of all, to know the extent of what is available and offered. Realistically, expectations cannot be for what obtains in the developed nations. However, there must be something tangible, in keeping with available resources, with upgrades foremost in planning.
This is not in any way suggesting that there is not an effective mechanism. However, counselling can be an extensive process for some, depending on the circumstances. Given the plethora of incidents that unfortunately continue, and which would make added demands on the system, the question of adequacy of trained staff, needed facilities, and support systems becomes more pertinent.
Not too long ago, the country had the unenviable tag of having the highest rate of suicide per capita. Prior to that categorisation, some aspects had made news internationally, prompting a local organisation to call for suicide to be made a national priority, given its impact on society and the trauma it imposes on surviving relatives.
It was stated that the declaration would not only bring additional focus, but would have positioned the issue to be afforded the necessary resources for its mitigation.
It was not going to be a panacea to stop suicide, but, effectively structured, it increases the potential across the country, with the assistance of stakeholders, to maximise effectiveness of information-gathering for targeted intervention. It would also increase confidence in the support system, to help break social inhibitors where necessary, and to better edify.
It is no different for domestic violence. While there is a disadvantage in being unable to accurately quote figures, based on extensive research, if available, on the amount of people lost, injured and disfigured, and those scarred for life as a result of domestic violence, it must be extremely high in proportion to our population. Clearly, the highest number would be those who are left traumatised.
This therefore must be seen as a serious cause for concern, and a compelling reason for consideration to be declared a national priority. This is an apolitical issue, and is not confined to any one group, thereby making it less difficult to garner national support. In small societies such as ours, the impact permeates throughout and away from just the families.
Children reading and learning about incidents through television and social media are in many ways impacted too, especially if one of their own is affected. In the context herein, the pervasiveness and impact of trauma cannot, and must not, be underestimated. That of road accidents must also be taken into account, for too much is at stake for the nation and its people.