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Intimate Partner Violence: Turning Inward to Community

By Deon J. Foster

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is, according to the CDC, abuse or aggression that occurs specifically within  romantic relationships which encompasses both former spouses and dating partners.

IPV includes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and/or psychological aggression and can occur throughout the lifespan of a person, manifesting itself in the form of Teen Dating Violence in the adolescent years. WHO’s Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women assert that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual IPV or non-partner sexual violence. For the Caribbean, GBV and IPV are the most widespread forms of occurring violence against women.

The Institute for Gender and Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office in Jamaica maintain that 1 in 4 women experience physical abuse, while in Guyana the amount of women that report IPV mostly report forced sexual relations from a male partner 

A qualitative study conducted in Trinidad and Tobago in 2017 ascertained the contributing factors to violence against women produced valuable results. The study conceded that although women can be perpetrators of IPV, but are usually at higher risk of being the victim. It also referenced a study conducted by the IDB to note that women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner. Now, we ask why? though we no doubt know the answer.

The Trinidadian study asserted that the risk factors with IPV include rigid gender roles that feature masculinity linked to toughness enforced by violent male dominance; women isolated from support at a community level; the condoning of violence against intimate partners by their male peers and within the site of the family and intimate relationship itself, the imbalance of power that skews itself according the accumulation of wealth. Women are then left at a considerable disadvantage in intimate relationships because of the inability to accumulate the same levels of financial resources as their male partners. 

Therefore, we must ask ourselves, where can we go? Who do we turn to when the odds are so systematically stacked against us that violence is a feature of everyday life? From my own personal experience with IPV, there exists no refuge in the state as it facilitates violence; the resources it provides are comically inadequate. There is no shelter from violence that has not happened nor is there safety to flee from violence that is occurring. Women’s shelters fail to accommodate, police officers scorn victims of violence and there is no sympathy offered when you share your experience in an effort to escape.

However, all is not lost, though the system may be inadequate for our needs, agitation for advancement is always happening. It is important to remember that IPV thrives in silence, nurtured by the isolation that we are forced into by its perpetrators and enablers. But, you are never alone. Being forced through the terrifying experience of IPV has made me into an island adrift, however, islands also form archipelagos. Statistics prove that we are not the first nor the last to go through it.

Here is where we may find our solution: community with survivors and those who have not yet been subjected to violence. I found my own community in women who had experienced IPV; they gave me their strength when it seemed inevitable to drown in my own fear. 

For aid in prevention, oral history is vital. The tales of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers are vital lessons to be heeded but also instruction manuals on how to survive another day, ensuring a more hopeful future.

The security and safety in speaking with our elders  aids in alleviating the isolation we feel – both as young women struggling to understand why this is happening to us, but also as adults who fear they have nowhere to go. In addition, mutual aid is essential. I did not understand my own situation until I read and understood that this was not my fault. That this shame I carried for enduring what I had was not truly mine, but it was strapped to me by patriarchal systems that demand we carry the emotional burden for others. Though we cannot rely on the state to give us safety and security, it is made possible through our own small networks.

Pooling resources creates small blankets of security that, while they do not amount to the potential of meaningful state backing, lessen the deficit of support that is required to escape IPV circumstances, whether it be a young adult grasping to comprehend her situation as I once did, or a mother seeking safety.

Deon Foster is a third-year law student at UTech, Jamaica, a published poet, fashion critic and ardent feminist. Deon is currently a tutor at the Faculty of Law, UTech and a volunteer researcher at Feminitt Caribbean.

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