Within a general context ‘Domestic Violence’ is usually referred to as the emotional, psychological, physical or sexual abuse perpetrated against a person by someone with whom he/she shares or has shared an intimate relationship. However the Domestic Violence Act of Trinidad & Tobago (1999) broadened the scope of the definition to include members of the household and the aspect of financial abuse. This is stated as under Section 3 and is stated as follows;
“domestic violence” includes physical, sexual, emotional or
psychological or financial abuse committed by a person
against a spouse, child, any other person who is a member
of the household or dependant;
Despite increased efforts of advocacy and service provision, Trinidad and Tobago continues to witness the most excessive use of violence against women.
Several advocates echo sentiments similar to those of Attorney Kevin Raitram that “Domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago is too prevalent, and too acute a problem” But how prevalent is it? The gap in quantification remains a burning issue and serves as a catalyst for the paralysis of proactive interventions and service delivery.
Data from the Crime And Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch of the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service (TTPS) revealed that there were approximately 11,441 reports relating to domestic violence incidents between 2010 and 2015. Approximately 75% of these reports were related to female individuals. During the same period there were 131 domestic violence related deaths of which 56% were female.
This phenomenon needs to be closely monitored given the fact that there are approximately 498,009 females over 18years of age in our population. Data from the TTPS and the National Domestic Violence Hotline reveal that approximately 80% of the reports relate to female victims, hence the major emphasis on this sector of the population. However inclusion of information for both men and women provides valuable comparable data on women’s and men’s experiences with violent victimisation.
Measurement of prevalence, adequate research in other domains and treatment of victims remains a large gap in national service delivery. The latter concern has been echoed by Jennifer Holder Dolly who indicated that “we do know that there are some common responses to the trauma of domestic violence that women experience including paralyzing fear, a sense of helplessness, what Barnett and La Violette (1993) call ‘learned hopefulness' which they describe, building on learning theory, as a response to the cycle of violence in which the woman becomes conditioned to hope after the honeymoon phase that things will get better.”
A pilot survey was conducted by the Gender Affairs Division in order to obtain a snapshot of attitudes towards physical violence among members of the population. The survey also sought to measure lifetime occurrences along some of the various domains which constitute the subject matter.