Opinion: Domestic violence

POSTED: 02/17/12 12:46 PM

The defendant who was in court yesterday morning for ill-treating his now ex-wife, represents the top of a very ugly iceberg. As the prosecutor in the case said: domestic violence is a big problem in St. Maarten.

We’d say: domestic violence is a big problem. Period. Things that happen behind closed doors all over the world come to light sparingly. There is always a fuss but there is also always this feeling of despair that some things never change.

Domestic violence is a power game. It is played by people who are incapable to settle their differences in a normal manner. It is played by people who have no arguments left. And when they exercise their power they use the only tool left to them: violence.

There are all kinds of explanations for why people sink so low that they commit domestic violence, but there are no excuses for this type of behavior.

In this particular case, the man ill-treated his wife in front of three small children. These children will not easily forget the experience, but they also tend to think that this is the way to establish authority. So later on in life, these same children will copy their father’s behavior when they end up in a similar situation.

It is therefore easy to argue that the abusers should not be blamed because they themselves probably went through similar experiences as a child. Belting seems to be a Caribbean tradition, a bit like cock fighting, but that does not mean it is acceptable. Still there are people, even mothers, who think belting a child is okay.

Many victims of domestic violence live in what we’d call a love-hate relationship. In the case at hand, the woman told the police: “When things are good between us they are very good. When they are bad they are very bad.”

Illustrative is the fact that the woman initially filed a complaint, then thought better of it and attempted to withdraw it. That’s how many abusers get away with their behavior. Partners kiss and make up, and everything is forgiven (but not forgotten) until the next beating.

Why women do this is up to a point understandable. They are often economically depending on the abuser. If the relationship breaks up they end up without income, without a roof over their heads and without any perspective for their children. And if these arguments do not dawn on victims, they often think that they have nowhere to go.

That is not entirely true: we do have Safe Haven, a shelter for abused women. And we also know that Theophilus Priest in St. Peters offers shelter to victims of domestic violence.

These are of course temporary solutions, but they give abused women an opportunity to get their feet back on the ground, to get away from an abusive situation and to give their life a positive twist.

The abusers always seem to get off light. Like the man who was in court yesterday: he walked away with a suspended prison sentence and 120 hours of community service. Does that do justice to the way he terrorized his wife? We don’t think so. Does this encourage other women to file complaints about domestic violence? Hardly.

So what is the way to make domestic abusers change their ways? Name and shame seems a good idea, and in this respect the defendant who was in court yesterday got what he deserved: public exposure of reprehensible behavior. Unfortunately, there are many others like him and the way things are going, they will continue to do what they do until something gives. It could be murder, it could be ill-treatment leading to a life-time handicap and it could be another court appearance. But always the children who are involved in these situations will do most of the suffering in silence – unaware of the fact that they are most likely the next generation of abusers.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Domestic violence by

Comments are closed.