I want to seek to do some ‘out of season’ education focused around intimate partner violence (IPV) with this week’s offering. As I have said before, the way we consume information about intimate partner violence makes it very time-bound to the period immediately after an incident happens.
The focus is usually on talking about extraneous and speculated causes for the incidents that happen. The misinformation and confusions about intimate partner violence are still rife. Also, as I have said before, all the education about intimate partner violence cannot be given in the seven very charged days after a specific incident. So as we move into the Independence and Christmas seasons, two known for peaks in IPV instances, I want to write a bit about Cap 130 A and its purposes and uses.
Cap 130 A is the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act of Barbados. The act was comprehensively amended in 2016 after years of agitation by women in the advocacy space for it to come more in line with international best practices. I get the sense that there may now be some thwarting of the intentions of the Protection Orders Act by the ways the act is being interpreted. In that context, I wanted to examine some of the provisions in our own law as well as give a general explanation of the usefulness of the protection order mechanism.
There are four noteworthy expansions to Cap 130 A. The first is that IPV is now categorized as a form of child abuse and the safety and security of the children of an affected union should be considered in any decisions made. In my view, there is some work needed to strengthen the protection of children affected by IPV. There needs to be protocols developed that curtail, suspend and terminate parental rights in the context of IPV.
One of the major reasons that women report staying in unsafe relationships is because of the threats they endure to have their children taken away or to have support for their children terminated if they leave relationships. Many men who are abusive in relationships resort to using any children of the union as pawns in a power struggle upon dissolution. Barbados needs to become a lot more able to investigate and manage determinations about children in IPV cases. Without doing so we cannot guarantee these children the protection that is enshrined to them in the law under 130A.
The second notable expansion in our law is that it was expanded to cover visiting relationships for the purpose of issuing protection orders (POs). It is a historical reality that many of the intimate relationships in the Barbadian space exist between people who do not share a communal household. In such instances, before the law changed, it was difficult to cover women in cohabitational relations living separately from their partner. This is no longer the case and this common type of intimate partner relation is now recognized.
The third change relates to making protections for victims of intimate partner violence as ‘real-time’ as the potential for their safety to be compromised. Provision 11B authorizes the Police with the power to issue interim protection orders in cases where this action would be more immediate than going before the court.
This is a vitally important provision in the Act and the Royal Barbados Police Force now has more ability to render the services of serving and protecting victims of IPV. IPV is not a ‘9 to 4’ occurrence. By giving the police the power to issue protection orders weekends and nights – times of the week when IPV is statistically more likely to occur – these are better managed.
The final useful expansion in 130A is that they provide support for perpetrators. The men who abuse their intimate partners are often struggling with multiple issues which need psychological and therapeutic intervention. Without intervention, there is a high probability that the perpetrator will continue to be unsafe to his intimate partner and children of the union. The provisions at 3 (4), (5) and (6) of 130A consider this and attempt to meet the needs of perpetrators.
For the reasons outlined above, protections orders are quite important facilitation for the victims of IPV. If Protection Orders in the Barbadian space are being considered as a waste of time it may have more to do with the way that we are interpreting the law and administering it than the law and its spirit.
We still do not seem to understand the connectivity between the social decay that we complain about and issues such as IPV. IPV affects a country economically, it adds to the risk factors for deviant behaviour in youth and it is a health risk for victims that can have long-term physical and mental implications. The response we are able to deliver to victims can literally determine how well they and their children are able to return to being productive parts of society.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.