By Feona Morrison
Let’s face reality. For millions and millions of women across the globe, violence has become an everyday part of their lives. Domestic violence which includes physical and sexual violence, psychological, emotional and economic abuse is becoming more prevalent among women in Guyana and is more perpetrated on them by someone they know. The most common type of violence is done by an intimate partner.
The effects of domestic violence on the emotional and psychological state of a woman are often overlooked. Many times persons tend to only focus on physical abuse. However, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic violence are also severe, says Psychologist Bibi Ahamad, who herself, is a domestic violence survivor.
While domestic violence is widely regarded as a private, family matter, Ahamad begs to differ. In fact, she stressed that this is a misguided notion because domestic violence has become a devastating public health crisis. She explained that the psychological ramifications of domestic violence include anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, lowered self-esteem and alcohol and drug abuse. She noted that these conditions can be ignited by domestic violence.
Ahamad added that an individual may simultaneously suffer from more than one mental illness. In this regard, she expressed that issues surrounding poor mental health are often ignored or go unaddressed in domestic violence cases. She intimated, “Verbal abuse, from my personal experience, has a negative effect on your emotional state of mind. It drains you. When that verbal abuse is constant…when your partner constantly uses derogatory comments, expletives it shatters your emotions so your self-esteem becomes very, very low. You even become suicidal. There are so many adverse factors that can lead on from the verbal abuse.”
Further, the psychologist also noted that this social ill also has physical consequences, too. For instance, she said these include, but are not limited to eating and sleeping disorders, miscarriages, unwanted pregnancies and even sexually transmitted diseases.
Kaieteur News had the opportunity to speak with Ahamad a few weeks ago when she related that like many other women, she too, found it difficult to leave her abusive partner. She explained that for many years she was paralyzed with doubt—thinking her partner would change. One time, she said, he was all cool and charming, and then another time she would have to deal with his loud insulting explosions and beatings.
“Why doesn’t she just leave?” is an ignorant question, Ahamad noted. According to her, not all domestic violence cases are similar, and this is why each one must be approached with an opened mind. She explained that there is always a pattern to the abuse; how it starts, escalates and ultimately messes with a woman’s mind. She explained that the psychological effects of domestic violence could lead a woman to think that she is at fault for her partner constantly abusing her.
According to her, abusers operate in a very manipulative way so the victims tend to feel that she is the cause for the abuse happening. She added that an abusive spouse would often shout at his partner, “You are the cause of this.” or “You made this happen.”
She added, “So all the blame keeps coming to the victim. Abusers don’t ever accept that they have done something wrong. They would apologize for two seconds and say I won’t let that happen again, but honestly, they do not mean it. They would do it again and that is how the cycle of abuse continues because what happens is when a victim gets abuse her children see it and they think it is acceptable…Dad beating mom, dad yelling at mom, dad cursing out mom and calling her all sorts of derogatory names.”
Ask to comment on why many women find it hard to leave or would leave and go back to an abusive partner, Ahamad said that the biggest problem is fear. “She is living in fear. So she would go to the police and make a report then change her mind not to go through with prosecution. There are also financial and economic circumstances.”
“If a victim leaves her abusive home and she is a housewife and mother of four children all of whom are going to school what systems are in place to assist her?” Ahamad questioned. In this regard, Ahamad said that more should be done in terms of providing support for women who want to leave an abusive partner. According to her, more Safe Homes for battered women is something urgently needed.
She added, “When you put victims in these homes that family cannot stay there for a week. There has to be a transitional period. Some might have to stay for three months, some might have to stay for six months but it depends on the social and economic factors other than the coping and healing process of the individual. When you are going to have the Safe Homes you would have to consider bringing in religious leaders to help.”
Ahamad’s advice to women in abusive relationships is to get out and seek help.
She urged, “Even when you leave that abusive relationship it is not going to be all bright and beautiful. You need to have a support system. I am not talking about financial support; I am talking about emotional support. As a domestic violence survivor, if you do not have a support system you are going to go into further depression. You are going to need help transitioning into that new beginning.”
Ahamad revealed that there are many instances where women choose to go back to their abuser for whatever reason. She, however, said that she never shuns or look down on women like these, since she, too, was once in their shoes.
“When the victim goes back to the abuser I just let him or her know that I am always there for them. I never feel as though they are wasting time. I don’t condemn them. They might go back because of many factors but the emotional state of mind is out of fear. You are not thinking for yourself; you think it is love. Nine out of ten times abusers make you depend on them. They play on your emotions. They know what are your strengths and your weak points and they play on your weaknesses.”
Help and Shelter
Ahamad is thereby urging abused women to reach out for help before it is too late.
If you are anyone you know is being abused kindly reach out to: Help and Shelter, Homestretch Avenue Georgetown or call 225-4731; the Ministry of Social Protection, Water Street, Georgetown or call 225-6545; Caribbean Voice by calling 621-6111 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; Red Thread at 173 Charlotte Street, Georgetown or call 227-7010; the nearest police station or health centre or faith-based organizations.
If you just feel like talking to someone, you can also call the 24/7 Suicide Prevention Hotline on toll-free numbers 223-0001, 223-0009 and 623-4444. The toll-free numbers 600-4444 and 623-4444 are also active Whatsapp numbers that persons in need of counselling can access.