A two day workshop on domestic violence under the guidance of the Child Development Foundation CDF was held at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in Belmopan on both Thursday and Friday of last week. During the two days, domestic violence was a central focus given that it occurs at an alarming frequency and has deadly consequences. Participants came from many parts of Belize and involved social workers, nurses and other stakeholders.
As explained by workshop facilitator Crystal Humes, from the CDF, domestic abuse is a pattern of abusive behavior that one partner uses to maintain power and control over their partner.
For experts like Dr. Mercedes Ken, who was present at the workshop, women should report their first case of abuse whenever it occurs “…once it is one time, you have to report it, because in a relationship, once it happens one time, it can happen again.” However; explained Dr. Mercedes Ken, women are mostly unaware that it is domestic violence and mostly report bodily force and not emotional and psychological abuse.
Three phases have been identified in the domestic violence cycle. In the first phase, the abuser becomes edgy, in the second phase the abuser has outbursts and in the third phase, the abuser becomes loving once again. In phase three, victims may enter the criminal justice system after an acute battering episode, but after the assault comes a period of calm, loving, contrite behavior. Both the abuser and the victim feel guilty about the event and resolve never to ‘let” it happen again. The batterer will very typically treat the victim with apparent respect, love and affection. It is at this stage that if the victim has filed charges against the “reformed’ partner, she/he may consider dropping them.
According to statistics compiled by the CDF and shared with workshop participants last week, there were 96 femicides in Belize between 2006 to 2014. Other data shows that 88% of the perpetrators for domestic violence are men, with 12% being women. Whenever domestic violence occurs, on 74% of the instances, they occur in a married or common law union setting and for 80% of the cases, it involves bodily harm, slapping, punching, kicking and others. Thus; the need for domestic violence workshops like these to sensitize the population on the subject matter.
It is comforting to know that Belize’s law has now caught up with these perpetrators via various reforms such as the Domestic Violence Act Reforms, which are now gender neutral. These laws now sanction physical, emotional or psychological, sexual and financial abuse and broadens the definition of spouse to include individuals who are living together unmarried, those who have children in common or who are in visiting relationships.
The two day workshop by the CDF was a culmination of a series of other workshops on domestic violence held since November of last year in other districts of Belize. The CDF is a nonprofit organization, which specializes in child abuse, human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. It has an office at number 33 Central American Boulevard in Belize City and also one at Help for Progress in Belmopan.
Victims of domestic violence are encouraged to report the matter immediately to the Women’s Department or the Department of Human Development. As explained in the Domestic Violence Act No.19 of 2007, “… it has become necessary to reflect the community’s repugnance to domestic violence in whatever form it may take.”