While noting that there has been a global increase in domestic abuse generally due to COVID-19 lockdown measures in many countries, Bahamas Crisis Centre Director Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson said yesterday that The Bahamas is seeing a similar trend.
In an interview yesterday, Dean-Patterson pointed to the reports of increased abuse globally. She said there has been “a similar increase” in reported cases of domestic abuse in The Bahamas but not “as dramatic as in other countries”.
“You can imagine if you have been living with an abusive partner for whatever period of time and now you’re in a situation where you can’t get out,” Dean-Patterson said.
“You can’t leave your house [and] your children are home all the time. It’s like you’re walking on eggshells and you’re really terrified; you don’t know what’s going to happen.
“So you can imagine the kind of anxiety and fear that’s happening in so many dysfunctional homes.”
But even on top of the curfew and lockdowns, Dean-Patterson noted that job loss can also potentially increase the risk of domestic abuse, as it can exacerbate some of the tension that can lead an abusive partner to lash out.
With the tourism industry brought to a standstill and hundreds of businesses closing their doors, thousands of Bahamians have recently become unemployed.
“Domestic violence is rooted in this whole idea of power and control [with] the perpetrator wanting to feel powerful and wanting to be in control,” Dean-Patterson said.
“So here he [or she] is now…and you can imagine, if you are out of a job, you don’t know what’s going to happen, all of your need to be in control of your situation is gone, so your anxiety is going up.
“And many times people, unfortunately, release their anxiety by hurting other people around them.
“Persons can be at greater risk of psychological and physical violence as a result.”
Dean-Patterson said all of these conditions can lead an abuse victim to “almost feel trapped”.
But she stressed that the Crisis Centre, while physically closed, is still actively taking calls from victims.
The center has also introduced a text or WhatsApp number for victims who may not be able to make a phone call because of “close proximity” to their abuser during lockdown in the same house.
The community, including concerned family members or friends, can also help even while not being able to physically get involved, Dean-Patterson said.
“If you are a person who knows that you have a friend or a relative who’s living in that kind of situation and is now locked down in that kind of situation, check on them,” she said.
“Maybe once a day call and say, ‘Just checking to see how you’re doing,’ so that the person knows that they have somebody that they can call on as well.
“So that whole sense of us as a community showing that we care.
“[A]nd if you know of a friend or a relative who’s in a situation and you can’t get hold of them for whatever reason, you can maybe ask the police to do a welfare check.”
Dean-Patterson urged victims to know they “are not alone”.
“If you’re living with this, you are not alone,” she said.
“We are a country, we are a community that cares and there is no excuse for abuse in any way.”
The Bahamas Crisis Centre can be reached on their hotline at 328-0922 or via text or WhatsApp at 565-9633.