Globally and regionally, Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Violence affect millions of people each year and have been recognised as a major health concern for youth and adults. Without a doubt, the long-term impact on those who are victims and survivors of (as well as those who witness) such violence is potentially devastating.
The research shows that the risk that persons will engage in such behaviours increases when they have been violent in the past, seen or been a victim of violence as a child, are using drugs or alcohol, are unemployed or undergoing other traumatic life events.
Cultures which are steeped in domestic violence or which do little to deter persons from resolving conflicts with physical violence, verbal abuse and or psychological manipulation may, therefore, record higher rates of inter-generational domestic and intimate partner violence.
Physical injury, disability and death (sometimes murder-suicides) can result from repeated or one-time intimate partner violence. Outcomes may include emotional harm and social difficulties that can last long after the violence ends.
This is one of several adverse childhood experiences which research shows may scar victims and witnesses for life if there are no interventions to address the trauma. Victims may try to cope with their trauma in unhealthy ways, such as by self-medicating. Common examples are through smoking, drinking alcohol and taking narcotics.
Despite these grim outcomes, millions of men around the world engage in domestic and intimate partner violence annually. Often occurring within the context of failed sexual relationships, these men appear to adopt attitudes of ownership over women's bodies and are unable and or unwilling to accept the end of the relationship.
Like issues of sexual harassment and buying commercial sex, media reports reveal that men of all ages, social, political, economic and ethnic backgrounds allegedly engage in domestic abuse.
|Violence by Women
This is not to ignore the truth that men are also the victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. Most certainly, men are also finding our voices to express publicly how we are being treated by our partners. This is a huge step forward as it recognises that men are willing to overcome stigma based on false male stereotypes to report their victimisation.
Relatively less common are reports being initiated by men of abuse of their children by their female partners, except in the course of divorce or child custody and maintenance proceedings. It is important to state this because alarmingly high rates of physical abuse on children in the Caribbean are allegedly perpetrated by women while men account for the majority of child sexual abuse.
Among sexual partners, women are reported to be more likely to use verbal and psychological violence against men. Some recent research has identified that some women engage in Intimate Terrorism against their male partners, including bouts of regular physical abuse. However, the extremes of intimate partner violence which end in murder or murder-suicide are primarily being committed by men.
At CURB we unreservedly refuse to condone any form of domestic or intimate partner violence, regardless of by whom it is committed! We believe it is beneficial for all parties to learn, engage in and teach restorative patterns of behaviour for their interpersonal relationships, especially when seeking to resolve conflicts.
|Socialised to Abuse?
The rampant and normalised violence which characterises Latin American and Caribbean cultures is perhaps a factor which we must examine if we are to understand why the region has such high rates of domestic abuse.
In large measure, there is a culture of machismo which pervades the region. Men are deemed to be 'in charge', have children with multiple partners and use brute strength if necessary to enforce their way against women, all the while being supported by political, economic and religious power structures.
Non-violent communication is only relatively recently being promoted as a means whereby disputes may be resolved within families and in society and only in piecemeal measure. State programs are often run in ad hoc manner as a complement to underfunded nonprofit campaigns, but these are inadequate to undo in one generation the long history of socialisation towards violence, especially when one factors in the impact of centuries of the African Slave Trade and slavery on the region's population.
International campaigns against domestic violence which are engaging men and boys as allies to prevent abuse are recently gaining ground among the Latin American and Caribbean nations. Previous versions of global campaigns focused on ways to empower women to achieve social and economic equality without complementary focus on addressing behaviour change in the men who were their abusers.
In a region where 'machismo' is being displaced rapidly, men and boys are not being adequately prepared to live in a world where their cultural and historical roles have changed.
Poor academic scores, diminished productivity, lower rates of employment for men are just some of the factors which have led more of them into violent crime to eke out a living. Faced with being a secondary breadwinner if at all, many unfortunately use their only remaining 'asset' to assert themselves as leaders in the home and relationships and perpetrate acts of domestic and intimate partner violence.
What is being recognised in recent times is that men in the region are in crisis and need State and civil society support to navigate the new reality of their 21st century economic, social and political roles.
More than ever, the question of Male Identity arises. With the old landmarks being removed, men need to know who we are so that we will not react out of fear or marginalisation, being rendered irrelevant and obsolete.
Viable and lasting solutions are needed. We are not talking about band-aid measures which are unable to keep pace with the changing world, but those which go to the root of the matter and are able to touch and transform the hearts of men!