This issue of domestic violence, its trickle effects and its impact on society has, on numerous occasions, been reported in Guyanese media; but unfortunately, domestic violence continues despite awareness efforts. In several cases that have been reported locally, some women, and even family members, used the mechanisms available to help domestic violence victims, but, in many instances, all systems failed.
Domestic violence has been described as “behaviour which causes one partner in a relationship to be afraid of the other. Domestic violence can take the form of physical or sexual abuse, and forced social isolation away from friends and family members.”
There is more than a subtle irony in the continuance of this societal scourge in spite of the relentless efforts and the plethora of mechanisms available to inform and educate. The problem appears much larger than is reflected in the news, as many cases go unreported. This speaks to the reality of the problem being underestimated.
Many reasons have been advanced for what can deter an abused victim from seeking the intervention of the law. Among them are aspects of culture, shame, dependency and its redounding lack of empowerment for some, and the absence of confidence in law enforcement, precipitated by the reported trivialising of the issue in some instances.
The magnitude of the impact cannot be underestimated. Many persons have cruelly been made witnesses to the horrific assaults. Those ghastly images, especially when life was snuffed out, are not only lasting, but profoundly traumatising.
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 all to know the extent of what is available and offered. While expectations would be for what obtains in the developed nations, there realistically 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.
While there is a disadvantage in accurately quoting 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, those figures 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 for declaring domestic violence a national priority. This is an apolitical issue, and it 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.
As this newspaper had previously said, persons 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. Its mitigation has to uncompromisingly be immediate, holistic, effective and sustained. Persons within communities most often do not think it is their business to report instances of abuse, but proper and timely intervention could have saved someone’s life.