GPF and the battered woman syndrome

News reports over the past week outlined that the Human Services Ministry is seeking to strengthen its partnership with the Guyana Police Force (GPF). In one report, it was noted that with intense focus on children’s safety and abuse, and in a bid to strengthen collaboration, subject Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud held discussions with Assistant Commissioner of Police, Clifton Hicken.
To be addressed, also, are cases of suicide, drugs, alcohol consumption, child sexual abuse and incest.
UN Women reports, in an article headlined “Ending violence against women,” inter alia: “One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner… At least 155 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, and 140 have legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace (World Bank 2020). But challenges remain in enforcing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.”
The article continues: “A woman’s right to live free from violence is upheld by international agreements such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.”
It elucidates: “Only 40 per cent of women seek help of any sort after experiencing violence, and so we advocate for, and support, women and girls’ access to quality, multi-sectoral services essential for their safety, protection and recovery, especially for those who already suffer multiple forms of discrimination.
“We partner with Governments, UN agencies, civil society organisations and other institutions to find ways to prevent violence against women and girls, focusing on early education, respectful relationships, and working with men and boys. Prevention is still the most cost-effective, long-term way to stop violence.”
The track record of the GPF in dealing with cases of domestic abuse is lamentable, to say the least. In many instances, male Police ranks have been accused of spousal abuse, even murder of their domestic partners, some of whom were themselves members of the GPF.
The laissez-faire attitude of Police to victims of domestic abuse may stem from the fact that, while in the heat of the moment a battered woman may seek the protection of the Police in a crisis situation that imperils her life, she most often withdraws her complaint when the immediate threat has passed.
Battered woman syndrome, or battered person syndrome, is a psychological condition that can develop when a person experiences abuse, usually at the hands of an intimate partner.
Psychotherapist Lenore Walker developed the concept of battered woman syndrome in the late 1970s.
She wanted to describe the unique pattern of behaviour and emotions that can develop when a person experiences abuse.
Battered woman syndrome may make a victim feel helpless and overwhelmed by her situation, oftentimes accepting blame and feeling guilty that she somehow deserves her ill-treatment. Psychiatrists ascribe the acceptance of, and subjugation to abuse in four stages, i.e: 1) Denial, whereby the person is unable to accept that they’re being abused, or they justify it as being “just that once”; 2) Guilt, catalysed by the person believing they caused the abuse; 3) Enlightenment, in this phase, the person realises that they didn’t deserve the abuse and acknowledges that their partner has an abusive personality; and 4) Responsibility – the person accepts that only the abuser holds responsibility for the abuse. In many cases, this is when they’ll explore their options for leaving the relationship. The term “domestic abuse” also includes child and elder abuse.
For Police to become effective social partners in battling the multiple scourges contributing to episodes of violence in society, oftentimes with tragic outcomes, not least the loss of lives and horrendous consequences therefrom, they need intense training in psychotherapy.
Guyanese have largely become blasé over incidences of spousal abuse, even murder, because of the regularity of women getting killed by their domestic partners. Minister Persaud’s campaign to form stakeholder partnerships to address these societal scourges should be commended.