Domestic violence a public problem
Head of the European Union Delegation Ambassador Mikael Barfod said domestic violence was a complex problem that needed to be understood in its entire social context.
His comments came as he addressed the European Union-funded None in Three domestic violence prevention project, which was convened to disseminate information on preliminary research findings.
“Violence against women is a crime with an impact far beyond the immediate moment of violence. Violence against women impacts us all, even those of us who have never personally experienced it. It impacts the families of these victims, it impacts our society, and it impacts our everyday lives. We all pay for these consequences,” Barfod said.
“Domestic violence is not something that can be neatly compartmentalized into what happens in the private sphere. Domestic violence can effect a victim’s participation in the workforce, including their ability to find work and to attend or stay at work, as well as their performance and productivity while at work.”
The EU diplomat, who is winding up his tenure in the region, said there was the mistaken view that domestic violence was only a working-class problem, noting that it permeated all facets of society, irrespective of education, environment or class.
Barfod contended that while regional societies must tackle violence among adults, efforts must also be made to change the attitudes and values that children learn when they witness this behaviour, in order to break the cycle of violence.
“We know that when you are in a broken family and your role model is a violent male, boys grow up believing that this is the way they are supposed to act. And girls think that it is acceptable for men to treat them this way. We hope that these debates will be picked up by civil society organizations and religious leaders, since there is the view that the church could play a major role in preventing domestic violence.
“Often boys are not raised to be men, but are raised not to be women. Boys are taught that girls and women are ‘less than’. It is important for men to stand up to not only stop men’s violence against women, but to teach young men a broader definition of masculinity that includes being empathetic, loving and non-violent,” Barfod told the gathering.
He said he hoped the None in Three sessions would further equip social service, health and other professionals to pick up the signs of violence and direct women towards help at an early stage. The EU official also placed emphasis on the need for timely research, as he said it
could improve the understanding of the nature and scope of the problem and its causes.
Barfod described the Caribbean in general as being faced with the challenge of defining the boundaries of family and redefining domestic violence, stressing that men must be included in these efforts.
“We need to also consider male victims of domestic violence, as there is very little support for them. We also need to consider the practice of over-punishing children since this is where the youth have their first experience of violence,” the diplomat said.
He said he was excited about the None in Three project’s innovative methods for early and continuous education, using a medium that was likely to appeal to children and young people, since research indicated that 40 per cent of girls aged 14 to 17 reported knowing someone their age who had been hit or beaten by a boyfriend; and approximately one in five female high school students reported being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
As part of the None in Three project, an immersive, role-playing computer game will be developed that can be used in schools as an educational tool to develop empathy and emotional intelligence and to reduce the negative attitudes developed in childhood which fuel violence in later relationships.