Yet another Barbadian woman has been affected by a violent attack from her former intimate partner. Yet again we are engrossed in the resultant national discussion about our women and men and what goes wrong to cause violence in a relationship.
There are still large gaps in the knowledge of Barbadians about intimate partner violence and the reality of what causes intimate partner violence. In order to be able to eradicate the far reaching social problem of intimate partner violence, we must increase the awareness levels across the island. Women have to be one of the major target audiences for education. All women – so that when our friends are telling us about their new love interests, we can offer them valuable and hopefully good precautionary advice.
Intimate partner violence cannot be simply legislated away. This is why although I was somewhat heartened by the changes made to the Domestic Violence Act, I knew it was only a matter of time until we got to the next incidence. Furthermore, the changes in legislation were not supported by real restructuring of the relevant social services in Barbados to be able to create the state support net needed to rescue victims of intimate partner violence.
There was a Family Unit established within the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF). However, if public comment is used as a gauge, police officers still seem to carry the traditional approach to calls about intimate partner violence. Apart from the seeming usual at the level of the RBPF, there is still no housing plan for victims of intimate partner violence and no sustained welfare to work options.
It is thus one thing to say that women should just leave an abusive relationship but the logistics involved in this often make it quite a difficult task. With the prolonged state of Barbados economic woes, there is no obvious expectation for improvement that Barbadian women can expect in the short term. This is why education becomes such a fundamental feature in the fight against intimate partner violence. The more women know, they more informed their decision can be.
There is nothing that a woman does to make an intimate partner abuse or attack her. This is the crux of understanding about intimate partner violence. Out of the research over decades, there are signs and causal relationships which have been established to explain why intimate partner abuse occurs but the woman is never a reason or factor. Researchers are now paying closer attention to mental health and its co-occurrence with abusive behaviour.
Perpetrators may be battling depression or another type of mental illness which may make them act out seeking control. In all cases, intimate partner violence has to do with how a perpetrator constructs love. In about 0.1% of the population, adults do not develop healthy patterns of intimate association. In a regular relationship, the relation progresses from intense periods of being infatuated with the new love and wanting to spend time with the interest to a more sustainable pattern of interaction. With men prone to obsessive and possessive patterns of love, the inverse to this is true. The older the relationship gets, the more intense the desire to be with a love interest intensifies instead of wanes.
Where people have unhealthy patterns of love, there are behavioural flags which manifest before there is an escalation to abuse or violence. Alcoholism or other forms of addictive behaviour such as extreme infatuation with religion can be a warning sign. These may be the opiates of a person battling with control issues or other challenges.
Pay attention to men who always seem to show up where you are or ask you excessively about your whereabouts. Healthy adults have multi-faceted lives. We work, we visit family and spend time with friends. Be wary of a man who tries to make you the centre of his world or wants you to be the centre of his. This can be a sign of unhealthy love patterns. It is not healthy to entertain men who find fault with your friends and family, ask you to call in sick from work to be with him or otherwise try to isolate you from your normal activity.
Many men who have obsessive or possessive constructions of love seek to control women with their money. Do not allow yourself to become dependent on a man financially. This is the easiest way for him to create a situation where you cannot easily leave him if he becomes abusive. Be wary of men who want to make your life decisions on your behalf. If you return to school, if you get pregnant or terminate a pregnancy should be decisions you have a fifty percent stake in making.
Extreme jealousy is another hint that your relationship may not be healthy. If a man is jealous of your male relatives, makes you feel like you have to choose between him and your children or asks you to check in or call him excessively, this is not acceptable behaviour. Partners should also not seek to go through the personal effects of each other. A person’s phone, bag, pockets and drawers are personal items and boundaries should be set in relation to them.
Trust has to be a major part of any healthy relationship. If there is not trust in a relationship, there is no point in keeping the relationship. Moreover, due to the way that obsessive and possessive partners construct love, it is impossible to make them trust you. It is not your responsibility to try to make such a person trust you. It is like chasing the wind. Trust is a 50/50 endeavour and healthy adults understand that both people have a part to play in its construction. A man demanding that you satisfy him by staying home, carrying a phone he gives to you or answer his every call is not to be encouraged.
A man may do one of these things from time to time but the more of these flags you see in one person the more you need to pay attention. Also be wary of men who seem unsure of themselves or exhibit signs of low self-esteem. This can lead to him desiring to control people or things around him to compensate for his self loathe. If a man threatens to harm himself or you because you do not spend time with him or if you leave him, this is a major warning flag. Never take verbal threats of this nature lightly.
Do not let a man persuade you that you can change him or make him better. If a man that you are dating is exhibiting any of the above signs and you feel uncomfortable in any way, trust your instincts. Remember that obsessive and possessive lovers get worse over time. It is always easier to avoid getting involved with men displaying warning signs than to try to get out of a full blown abusive relationship.
I have written this article mainly to give women advice about warning flags. This is because women are statistically more affected by intimate partner violence than men. However, the behaviours outlined in this article are not healthy whether the person performing them is man or woman.