INTIMATE partner abuse is one of the many different forms of domestic violence which has plagued our St. Lucian society and continues to do so till this very moment. It is also one of the most overlooked forms of violence. Intimate partner abuse does not always involve physical injury and it is not gender-specific as both males and females can be victims of intimate partner abuse. It can happen to anyone regardless of sex, social status, age, nationality or size.
As St. Lucia joins the rest of the world in observance of International Day of Protest Against Violence Against Women and Girls, I wish to take this opportunity to help our St. Lucian society understand what intimate partner abuse is, what the warning signs are, and how to get help to reduce its occurrence.
Intimate partner abuse is domestic violence which is perpetrated by a spouse or partner in an intimate relationship against the other spouse or partner. It can include a current or former intimate partner whether married, separated, living in a common law relationship, heterosexual, gay or lesbian relationship. It can also take a number of forms, which vary from physical, emotional, social, economic and sexual abuse.
Indicators of a Potential Abuser
Controlling Behavior: At first, an abuser will attribute the behaviour to concerns for the victim (for example, the victim’s safety or decision-making skills). As this behaviour progresses, the situation will worsen and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely. For example, abusers give curfews, dictate what should be done in the home, dictate whether a partner should or should not work, who the partner should speak to, and what the partner should wear.
Jealousy: At the beginning of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealousy with love. The abuser gets mad when a partner speaks to a member of the opposite sex, as well as when attention is given to others, even children. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, and refuse to let the victim work, or ask friends to watch the victim.
Quick Involvement: Very often, a victim would have known or dated the abuser only for a brief period of time before getting engaged or living together. The abuser will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship. A victim may be made to feel guilty for wanting to slow the pace or end the relationship.
Unrealistic Expectations: An abuser expects the victim to meet all of their needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically.
Isolation: An abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim’s ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being “troublemakers”. The abuser may block the victim’s access to work, use of a vehicle or telephone service in the home.
Blames Others For Problems: An abuser will blame others for all problems, or for the abuser’s own shortcomings. Someone is always out to get the abuser or is an obstacle to their achievements. The victim, or potential victim, will be blamed for almost anything.
Blames Others For feelings: An abuser will use feelings to manipulate the victim. Common phrases to look for: “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want” or “You control how I feel”.
Hypersensitivity: An abusive person is easily insulted, perceiving the slightest setbacks as personal attacks.
Cruelty To Animals Or children: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain. The abuser may expect children to perform beyond their capability (for example whipping a two-year-old for wetting a diaper or teasing children or siblings until they cry).
Use of Force in Sex: This behaviour includes restraining partners against their will during sex, acting out fantasies in which the partner is helpless, initiating sex when the partner is asleep, or demanding sex when the partner is ill or tired. The abuser may show little concern for his partner’s wishes and will use sulking and anger to manipulate compliance.
Verbal Abuse: This behaviour involves saying things that are intended to be cruel and hurtful, cursing or degrading the victim, or putting down the victim’s accomplishments.
Rigid Sex Roles: The victim, almost always a woman, will be expected to serve. For instance, a male abuser will see women as inferior to men, responsible for menial tasks, stupid, and unable to be a whole person without a relationship.
Dual Personality — “Jekyll and Hyde”: Explosive behaviour and moodiness, which can shift quickly to congeniality, are typical of people who beat their partners.
Past Battering: An abuser will beat any partner if the individual is involved with the abuser long enough for the cycle of abuse to begin. An examination of past relationships will very often reveal a history of abuse.
Threats of Violence: This consists of any threat of physical force meant to control the partner. Most people do not threaten their mates but an abuser will excuse this behaviour by claiming that “everyone talks like that”.
Breaking or Striking Objects: This behaviour is used as punishment (breaking sentimental possessions) or to terrorize the victim into submission.
Any Force During an Argument: This may involve an abuser holding down the victim, physically restraining the victim from leaving, or pushing or shoving. Holding someone back in order to make demands, such as “You will listen to me!” is also a show of force.
How to Break the Cycle of Intimate Partner Abuse
EDUCATE YOURSELF: Through education, you will come to realize that your situation is not unique and that this behaviour is typical of all abusers and the abuse is also intentional. Education will also help you to recognize each stage of the abuse.
GET HELP: Go to agencies such as the Family Court; you can talk to them about getting a protection order. There are also the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Police Force, Division of Human Services, and the Crisis Centre, who will provide support and make the necessary referrals.
Call 202, the Women’s Support Centre (WSC) 24-Hour Crisis Hotline. All calls to the 202 hotline are toll-free. The Women’s Support Centre provides a 24-hour service for female victims of Intimate Partner Abuse and their children. Services include: Crisis Intervention, Residential Services, Non-Residential Services, Counselling and Legal Advice, Children’s Programme, Protection Planning, Public Education on Domestic Abuse, and information on available community resources and empowerment training.
MOVE: Get out of the situation by exploring alternative safe housing. If you are unable to get your own place, consider family and friends, providing that it is safe. The Women’s Support Centre provides temporary safe housing in critical cases. Clients are provided with an anonymous and safe service to empower them to make better choices
ENSURE YOUR SAFETY AND THE SAFETY OF YOUR CHILDREN: Prepare or get help in preparing a protection plan. No one should live in fear of being hurt by someone whom they love or know. Everyone deserves the right to live a life free from violence.