It is not okay to hit, and society must teach its girls and boys that lesson if domestic violence is to end.
That was the message of UN Women Multi-Cultural Office Representative, Christine Arab, as she addressed the first rally on domestic violence hosted by the National Organisation of Women last night in Heroes Square.
Arab told the crowd of mostly women and a few men that it was commendable that the Barbados Government was soon to enact related legislation, but the scourge of domestic violence would not end until people begin to believe it is bad to hit a women.
Hitting, she stressed, was not a sign of love, as many women believed, asking why it was mothers were the first ones immediately blamed when their sons abused women.
In Canada, she said spousal abuse cost the government $7 billion annually, and the direct cost of women being out of work, medical care accounted for $2 billion of that.
It was a cycle that had to stop, she contended, even as fellow presenter and President of the Barbados Nurses Association, Blondelle Mullin, noted domestic violence had an adverse impact on the health of the abused and even her children.
“The direct and immediate physical effects of domestic violence include injuries such as bruises, cuts, broken bones, lost teeth and hair, miscarriage, stillbirth and other complications of pregnancy,” Mullin said.
“The results of domestic violence can also be long-term and may cause or worsen, chronic health problems of various kinds, including asthma, epilepsy, digestive problems, migraine, hypertension, and skin disorders.
“Domestic violence also has an enormous effect on your mental health, and may lead to increased use of alcohol, drugs and other substances. The health of your children is also likely to have been seriously affected from witnessing abuse directed at you, and also in many cases from abuse which they themselves may have suffered.”
Former President of NOW, Nalita Gajadhar, made her contribution to the rally, questioning what more could be done, and adding that each time there was a death due to domestic violence, advocates asked that question.
Not everyone left after the first slap or hit, she stated, urging friends to not get frustrated and abandon their female counterparts to suffer abuse alone.
“Do not let your friend be isolated… Isolation is the best thing for the man. When they know you are there, they feel better,” she said, adding that if more women felt they had a sympathetic friend it could help them with their own decisions to leave.
President of the BPW (Barbados), Marrianne Burnham, encouraged men to join with the women’s organisations to end domestic violence. She challenged that “prevention is key”, noting that children had to be educated at the primary level, adding that this could ensure they were reached before actions of abuse were solidified in the young.
“We have to focus on prevention, to get to them, our young boys, before they get to prison,” she noted. (LB)