Domestic violence in focus

Domestic violence has an impact on everyone-women, men, children, their families, the workplace, and the community. No one is immune. It is a pervasive problem that is found in virtually all countries, culture, classes and income groups, and that includes Cayman.

Perhaps when you hear the term ‘domestic violence’ you may immediately think about a man, usually in the context of marriage hitting his wife. However, it’s less clear cut and more common than you think, with one study estimating that in the United States 25 per cent of those surveyed had been a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence can affect anyone, both men and women, teens, seniors, people just dating as well as those in more committed relationships.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behaviour in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviours that one partner inflicts on the other. Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological, either actions or threats of actions that may influence another person. This includes any behaviour that may frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound. For example, someone who feels she has to do ‘everything right’ or they will be beaten, often ‘walking on egg-shells’ as the rules keep changing.

US President Obama, in his proclamation on 3 October gave the sobering statistic, “Despite tremendous progress, an average of three women in America die as a result of domestic violence each day. One in four women and one in thirteen men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. These statistics are even more sobering when we consider that domestic violence often goes unreported.”

This is more than someone being just disrespectful, its abusive, controlling and potentially life threatening.

Recognise if you’re in an abusive relationship

When we love someone or have strong emotions toward them it can be difficult to recognise abuse when it’s happening, or it’s easy to make excuses and forgive the abuser. Yes, relationships can go through tough times but it’s important to be able to differentiate between healthy behaviour/communication issues both of you wish to address and what constitutes as ‘abuse’. Some of the common emotional, physical and sexual abusive behaviours are listed below.

You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if your partner:

Calls you names, insults you or continually criticizes you;

Does not trust you and acts possessive or jealous;

Tries to isolate you from family and friends;

Monitors where you go, who you call and who you spend your time with;

Does not want you to work;

Controls finance or refuses to share money;

Punishes you by withholding affection;

Threatens to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets;

Humiliates you in any way.

You may be in a physically abusive relationship if your partner has ever:

Damaged property when angry (thrown objects, punched walls, kicked doors, etc.);

Pushed, slapped, bitten, kicked or choked you;

Abandoned you in a dangerous or unfamiliar place;

Scared you by driving recklessly;

Used a weapon to threaten or hurt you;

Forced you to leave your home;

Trapped you in your home or kept you from leaving;

Prevented you from calling police or seeking medical attention;

Hurt your children;

Used physical force in sexual situations.

You may be in a sexually abusive relationship if your partner:

Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles;

Accuses you of cheating and is often jealous of your outside relationships;

Wants you to dress in a sexual way;

Insults you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names;

Has ever forced or manipulated you into having sex or performing sexual acts;

Held you down during sex;

Demanded sex when you were ill, tired or after beating you;

Hurt you with weapons or objects during sex;

Involved other people in sexual activities with you;

Ignored your feelings regarding sex.

Take the first step

You are not alone. Although many people who are victims of violence and abuse may feel embarrassed about what is happening to them or fearful that the abuse may get worse, it’s important to recognise this is unacceptable and not part of a loving or respectful relationship. Even in a small community such as Cayman, domestic violence happens, but as in many places, people are reluctant to speak out. Although partners may be sorry, plead to be forgiven and beg for one more chance research shows, it is likely to happen again, and it’s important you seek help. Decide what you want to do. This may range from deciding to leave the relationship, report the abuse to the police, or seek counselling either for yourself, or as a couple. The first step is to tell someone you trust. The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has a confidential 24 hour crisis line that offers advice and support 943-CICC (2422). If you would like to discuss this or any other issue then contact one of our professional counsellors at EAP for a confidential appointment on 949-9559, www.eap.ky.

Emma Roberts is a counsellor with the Employee Assistance Programme.

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