Persons involved in relationships where they are subjected to violence, whether physical or emotional, need not suffer in silence, and are being urged by the police to get help as soon as possible!

That help, said Sergeant Christine Husbands, Coordinator of the Family Conflict Unit, which was established on June 1, 2013, could extend to not just the victim, but also the attacker, where he or she could receive counselling for this or her behavioural problem in an effort to resolve the conflict within the relationship.

But, she lamented that too often police officers were faced with the challenge of victims failing to pursue criminal charges against their attackers, withdrawing Protection Orders or choosing not to pursue cases. Sergeant Husbands said this resulted in the perpetrator being allowed to continue with the behaviour without receiving the necessary corrective treatment, and the victim being exposed to further abuse.

And, she has stressed that one of the most important decisions a victim of domestic violence could make was to break the barriers to the situation by putting the matter before the court, reporting it to the police, or seeking assistance from another agency or counsellor.?????We need to get people to recognise that putting the matter in court is not just about sending the perpetrators to prison, but helping them to recognise that they have a behavioural problem and need help, so they could get the necessary counseling,??? she said, urging victims to see it as a way of maintaining their survival.

The Family Conflict Unit, which was established by the Royal Barbados Police Force, plays a critical role in this process. Ms. Husbands explained that the Unit, which is staffed by a team of trained police officers, was an investigative one which looked at the circumstances and situations surrounding the behaviour of the parties involved. In addition, it provides guidance to the wider police force on matters of domestic violence.

To date, the Unit has assisted with a significant number of interventions, assisting with between five to six Protection Orders monthly, repeating warnings to perpetrators as much as three times a week, and making the necessary referrals to and from the relevant agencies.??Noting that the complaints for domestic violence varied in nature, Sergeant Husbands said assault was the main one received by police. She added that the majority of cases stemmed from persons who were involved in relationships that have ended, and a child was usually the reason for the conflict.

In cases where domestic violence involved married couples, Ms. Husbands said it was usually a case where communication had broken down leading to arguments and, or physical violence. She noted that such cases were more difficult to manage as the married victim usually did not want to expose to everyone what was happening in the union.??The Unit has also been called upon to respond to calls from men seeking guidance about their abusive relationships.

However, Sergeant Husbands stressed that the Unit was not the first line of defence for someone in an abusive situation. Rather, she advised such persons to contact the nearest police station, or the police emergency number at 211, as they were the first responders.

She explained that the first responders would make an assessment of the situation on arrival, record statements from the parties involved and make arrests or issue warnings. ???Then the process will start with the court and there will be arrests initially or afterwards. If the victim needs a Protection Order, assistance will be given to facilitate that,??? she said.

Sergeant Husbands added that counselling for all the parties involved was provided on request, as a way of correcting the problem, rather than just seeking to imprison the offender.??She further pointed out that all reports received were documented and diarised by the first responders and transferred to officers at the Family Conflict Unit. ???If we see repeated cases, then we will get involved to see why some behaviours are prevailing and make an intervention,??? she pointed out.

However, in unique circumstances, officers from the Family Conflict Unit will work alongside the first responders from the initial stages – a situation that is determined by its gravity.??But, overall, the police officer made it clear that processing domestic violence cases was rather complicated, especially when children were involved. ???Most of the time children are present in the home when the attacks occur, usually resulting in some psychological damage. Children live what they see,??? she stated.

Yet, despite interventions by the police and officers from the Family Conflict Unit, Sergeant Husbands stated that a number of domestic violence victims returned to their attackers before the necessary interventions were completed.??Noting that some victims of domestic violence can, and do move away from the situation thereby breaking the cycle of abuse, Ms. Husbands explained that was not always the case. She explained that some were lured back into relationships during the ???honeymoon phase??? when attackers asked for forgiveness and promised to improve their behaviour, only to have history repeated.

In some instances, she said that a number of factors could influence a person???s decision to return to an abusive situation, with finances being a major one. ???Some people who may have no other means of financial support will stick to the relationship despite the circumstances,??? she said.

She noted that the ability to move on from such situations had a lot to do with the person???s personality and their will to escape such conditions.??Sergeant Husbands said that the Royal Barbados Police Force was not the only agency that could lend assistance in domestic violence cases. She reminded the public that agencies such as the Business and Professional Women???s Club, the National Organisation of Women, the Save Foundation, Share Men, MESA, and other Government agencies such as the Welfare Department and the Child Care Board could lend assistance to affected people at different levels.

However, the one point she wished to stress to not just the victim, but the abuser was ??? get help and do so early!

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