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:

Verbal abuse

  • 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 abuse 

Sexual contact of any kind that is coerced by force or threat of force

Physical violence 

  • Intentional use of physical force or power 
  • Kicking, biting, pushing, punching, or strangling 

Financial abuse 

  • 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