The perplexing and disheartening rise in incidents of domestic violence, particularly among women abused by men, has come to a head in recent times where multiple public incidents have been reported and documented in the mainstream press as well as social media. Many people were, and are, outraged and demanding answers and resolution. There are repeated calls for action and many persons have come forward with suggestions, ideas, potential legislation and other steps to address this issue.
This issue is not new and has always been a challenge. The issue is not simple to solve because there are many nuances that the public may not be aware of. I will outline the steps I believe we should pursue. But before I do, I would like to share some personal experiences that complicate the issue.
Abused women sometimes have a hard time letting go or severing ties with their abuser. I recall an incident with a friend of mine years ago who was in a relationship and became jealous of his girlfriend and knocked her out. She called the police. When the police arrived, they asked her if she wanted to press charges. She told the officers that she wanted them to warn him, so he would not do it again. The officer said they will either arrest him and charge him or that she had to live with the consequences of allowing him to remain. She would not press charges; he beat her again after they left. Another woman was run over by a car driven by her husband. She initially pressed charges but he brought her flowers and said he was sorry and would never do anything to hurt her again and she would not proceed with prosecution. I have encountered many other incidents like these where women do not follow through on abuse threats or actions and they later end up seriously injured or dead.
These examples speak to the challenge social workers, police officers and counselors encounter. There are many even more outrageous stories I can present, but, suffice it to say, the problem is very real and persistent. With that said, here are the steps I believe need to be taken immediately to counter the current trend of violence against women:
Special hotline and reporting center: A special and specific hotline and reporting center with trained personnel where abuse victims can call and speak with trained personnel equipped specifically in domestic violence counseling and referral. If police officers are involved, they should be specifically trained in domestic abuse intervention.
Electronic monitoring: Abusers should be electronically monitored and, if they violate restrictions on contact with the victim, they should be charged, remanded and ordered to undergo domestic violence counseling. They should be put in confinement but they should also face their issues with professional counselors who can hopefully assist them with rehabilitation.
Protection for victims: It appears that abusers have little or no impediments to accessing their victims, even after legal intervention. If women are placed in safe houses, these safe houses should have armed guards to protect against trespassing by abusers.
Victim counseling: Many victims do receive counseling, but this counseling should include specific training on following through with charges and the consequences of not following through. Perhaps, there should be group counseling similar to alcoholics anonymous (if this does not already exist), where victims come together and tell their stories to other victims and support each other. This model has seemed to work very well with a number of support groups. Hearing from and having support of other victims can prove beneficial in many ways.
Stronger laws: Current laws should be examined and, where appropriate, strengthened to prevent perpetrators receiving light sentences and returning to torment their victims.
Self-defense training: Women should be trained and equipped to defend themselves and, where appropriate, permitted to have defense tools like mace/pepper spray. Or, in certain incidents, weapons for defense that they are trained to use in extreme circumstances.
This issue is very complex and there is unlikely to be an immediate resolution but we can begin by taking the small steps available to shore up the defense mechanisms available to stem the tide of tragic events we have been experiencing. Within the next three months, these adjustments should have been implemented and the process of reviewing their success should have begun. When Jesus said, “Whatever you have done for the least of these you have done unto me,” it is a reminder that he expects us to look out for the defenseless and the abused. It is our duty and responsibility.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.