Some thoughts on a bad week…
This hasn’t been a great week for Bermuda in terms of domestic violence.
I don’t mean that in the sense of a sudden surge in domestic violence incidents – I have no way to say if that is the case or not.
Rather, I’m referring to the sad – and shocking – news that the islands only safe house, operated by the Centre Against Abuse, has been forced to close due to lack of funds, and the disturbing incident of a prominent divorce lawyer being assaulted in Supreme Court by the ex-husband of one of her clients.
Centre Against Abuse Safe House
This fact alone is a sad condemnation of Bermuda’s misplaced priorities regarding how we spend our money – for an island of our wealth, it is shocking we cannot fund such an important service, and in doing so we are condemning women and children (who make up the majority of domestic violence victims) to abuse and possibly even murder.
An article earlier this year states that the safe house provided shelter for 31 women and children fleeing domestic violence in 2013.
That may not sound like a lot of people, but for those involved it provided a crucial lifeline of support in escaping a nightmarish situation.
The same article makes clear that rates of domestic violence greatly increase over the summer months, and as we’re still in the summer (and the upcoming stresses of the new school year), one can only imagine the demand for the safe house is likely highest right now – and just when it’s needed most it’s no longer available.
Some Stats on Domestic Violence
There’s some interesting stats available on domestic violence as it relates to Bermuda.
A report by the Bermuda Health Council in 2013 [opens as a PDF] found that one in eight adults had experienced domestic violence, with partner violence being particularly directed against women and those in the younger age group (see p.61), with women being three times more likely to be the subject of domestic violence than men (see p.62) – that is, roughly one in five of all women in Bermuda reporting domestic violence.
Another report, the Health Survey of Adults in Bermuda 2011 [opens as a PDF] – I cannot find a more recent report and don’t know if they even exist – found that about a third (30%) of all Bermudians have experienced physical abuse from an intimate partner, compared to about a quarter (23%) in 2006 (see p.96; p.95 also provides additional information).
It’s not clear what the current status of domestic violence in Bermuda is, with the most recent crime statistics, quarter two for 2014 [opens as a PDF], not explicitly referring to domestic violence.
Nonetheless, these stats do indicate that incidents of sexual assault and ‘crimes against children’ have increased, which may reflect increased rates of domestic violence.
It’s also important to note that domestic violence is often under-reported.
There’s stats that women only report domestic violence after 32 incidents of domestic violence (see the header on this link; I believe it originates from a WHO report, but I’m not sure which exactly).
It’s also important to know that domestic violence doesn’t just affect the victims themselves – it also leads to greater healthcare costs for us all, as well long-term consequences – we know, for example, that abused women often have long-term mental and other health issues resulting from the abuse, and children growing up in an environment of domestic violence tend to exhibit a greater risk tendency of substance abuse, as well as engaging in violent acts themselves later.
The safe house run by the Centre Against Abuse isn’t the magic bullet to end domestic violence, but it is a key part in dealing with the problem and helping to break cycles of abuse.
I encourage anyone who can to reach out to the Centre Against Abuse and see what they can do to help them out and get the safe house back up and running as soon as possible.
Almost to underline the issue of domestic violence, one of Bermuda’s most prominent divorce lawyers was assaulted on the grounds of the Supreme Court, leaving the woman lawyer requiring hospital treatment.
The man who attacked the lawyer was involved in a divorce case, the lawyer representing the man’s ex-wife.
I’m not interested in getting into the ins and outs of the personal case of that divorce issue, other than to say that, beyond the need for improved security at the Supreme Court, this would indicate a certain mentality of resorting to violence, especially as a form of abuse.
A Quick Note
Just a quick additional note to say that domestic abuse is not restricted solely to physical violence, but also involves emotional and sexual abuse to.