The Trinidad and Tobago Domestic Violence Act 1999 (‘DV Act’) defines domestic violence as including physical, sexual, emotional or psychological or financial abuse committed by a person against a married or common law spouse (including former spouse), child, any other person who is a member of the household or dependent.
Anyone can be a victim and anyone can be an abuser regardless of gender, sexual orientation, occupation, class status or physical build.
These are some examples of behaviours that constitute domestic violence:
- Yelling/screaming to intimidate a partner
- Using inappropriate language or cursing to embarrass or humiliate a partner
Emotional or psychological abuse
- persistent use of abusive or threatening language
- persistent following of the person from place to place (stalking)
- depriving that person of the use of property
- the watching of or constant presence at the place where the person resides, works, carries on business or happens to be (surveillance)
- interfering with or damaging the property of the person;
- forced confinement
- persistent telephoning
- making unwelcome and repeated contact with a child or elderly relative;
Intimidation and threats
- Threatening violence against a partner, partner’s family, or partner’s friends
- Verbal threats of violence
- Physical conduct (such as hand gestures or raised fists)
Sexual contact of any kind that is coerced by force or threat of force
- Intentional use of physical force or power
- Kicking, biting, pushing, punching, or strangling
- Pattern of behaviour, the purpose of which is to exercise coercive control over, or exploit or limit a person’s access to financial resources so as to ensure financial dependence. E.g. withholding a partner’s paycheck, failing to meet financial obligations, attempting to control a partner’s money or job prospects
Some Reasons Why People Abuse Others
- They have been abused as a child
- They have witnessed violence / abuse and learned to express themselves with violence
- To show that they are in control of their household
- To ease frustration
- Low self-esteem
- Poor conflict resolution skills
- To show that they are strong especially if they feel weak in other aspects of their life
- Believe they have a natural or bestowed right to dominate others
None of these reasons are justification for violence or abuse.
Tips For Potential Victims and Survivors
- Talk to someone like a neighbour, friend or a family member. Maintain relationships outside that with your abuser.
- Seek out agencies that can help you. Call 800-SAVE in case of emergency.
- Lean on your support system as you get help. Your family, friends, religious groups and workplace can create safety and support.
- Remember your worth, there is only one of you in this world. You are a gift.
- Attend counselling or therapy to make changes and process trauma.
- Remember that it is not your fault. No one deserves abuse
- Avoid contact if you can help it. Stay in separate rooms or spend as little time at home as possible.
- Maintain or establish financial independence.
- Be extra cautious of partners with a history of abuse or addiction.
- Recognize possessive behaviour or monitoring is not loving or caring.
- Pay attention to early signs like your partner wants to control everything you do, who you talk to and where you go.
Understanding Why People Stay in Abusive Situations
- Fear of escalating violence after separation, often with the hope of protecting children involved.
- Wrongly believe that they are responsible for the bringing on the abuse and deserve to be punished.
- Stigma and shame.
- Holding out hope that things will improve
- Low self-esteem
- Waiting for divine intervention
- Physical, emotional or mental disability
- Investing in helping the abuser solve their problems
- Financially dependency
- Fear of breaking up the family
- Abuser promises to never do it again
Common Misunderstanding About Domestic Violence
- Family violence occurs only amoung those who are poor and uneducated. False