As at this month, some 672 cases of domestic violence matters have been engaging the attention of the court of law in Berbice alone for this year so far.
A breakdown of these statistics shows that, in the West Berbice Magisterial District, there are 198 cases filed, while for the Berbice Magisterial District, 254 have been filed for the year. In the Corentyne Magisterial District, 124 cases have been filed. Some 96 cases were also filed.
This year, the media reported numerous cases of domestic violence, which resulted in death, grievous bodily harm, and in some cases have left persons maimed and disfigured.
Many of these incidents have in common the ensuing trauma for those who witnessed them, and serve as a microcosm of such scenarios in society. More specifically, over time, numerous cases of domestic violence have been reported in the Guyanese media. Many victims were brutally killed in some instances.
Unfortunately, this continues despite awareness efforts. There is also 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 appears much larger, as reflected in the news, as many cases go unreported. This speaks to the reality being underestimated.
Many reasons have been made known for what can deter an abuse 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.
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. It would be pertinent to ask if the other factors subvert the heeding of educational messaging. While the answer may be assumed, it would make for interesting and informative research.
That said, the magnitude of the impact of domestic violence on children cannot be underestimated. Many 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.
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 to better shape lives. The entire spectrum of what therefore constitutes counselling then becomes vital. This naturally raises the question of the availability of adequate intervening mechanisms, not just for cases of domestic violence, but for other scenarios, including accidents.
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, realistically, there must be something tangible in keeping with available resources, with upgrades foremost in planning.
This is not in any way suggesting that there isn’t an effective mechanism. However, counselling can be an extensive process for some, depending upon 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 categorising, the high rate made news internationally, prompting a local 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.
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.
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. Its mitigation has to uncompromisingly be immediate, holistic, effective and sustained.