The National Family Services Division (NFSD) in the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services (MDDFS) is challenging the nation’s men to stop hurting the nation’s women, and says it will continue its specialist programmes targeting men specifically, in a bid to reduce the violent attacks on women by men.

The move comes against the backdrop of what the Ministry describes as “increased aggression” against women by men whom they know, as well as increased physical attacks—some fatal and including rape—against women by men who are strangers to them.

According to the Ministry, the situation has worsened particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the programme development specialists at the National Family Services Division (NFSD), says men who hurt women can seek help in an effort to avoid bringing harm to potential victims.

Why are men hurting women?

According to the NFSD specialist, domestic abusers tend to be controlling, manipulative and believe they possess a preordained right to be in control in relationships.

“Often times they also see themselves as victims and after an attack, they would sometimes accuse the actual victim of making them hurt them,” she explained.  “It is a psychological issue many men encounter; unfortunately, this is the way they make themselves feel empowered.”

She added: “Most perpetrators would have observed or undergone some sort of abuse in their early childhood, which has created related trauma encouraging similar behaviour.  This abusive behaviour is usually a learned trait and thus, the cycle of abuse is repeated.” 

Increasing aggression against women by men

“The spike in violence against women in the country, as we have seen in the media lately is being attributed in part to COVID-19,” the NFSD specialist observes.  

“Since the lockdown, persons have been in close quarters; not having much personal space anymore has made already aggravated situations worse in some instances. In regular situations, COVID-19 restrictions have been stressful and in the case of most abusers, they usually have anger issues and given further constraints, minute conditions can trigger them to become violent,” she explains.

She also reports that during the pandemic, the Division has seen an increase in the consumption of alcohol and drugs, which also increases the likelihood of violent rants by some men.

The NFSD specialist also notes the ministry is very concerned about the increase in general acts of violence against women and girls by men unknown to them.

“In some instances,” she says, “these men have taken these women and girls against their will, abusing them and in some instances even proceeding to rape and murder these females.  This is a clear indication that there is a breakdown in the value system, whereby respect for women has been lost by these offenders.”

To address this particular issue, in 2021, the Ministry of Social Development and Family Service (MSDFS) plans to embark on a Values, Attitudes and Behaviours (VABs) campaign as part of a Vision 2030 strategy to build resilience and return to basics within Trinidad and Tobago’s population.

Ways to end the vicious cycle

Counselling is considered one of the first steps in an effort to unlearn a particular behaviour, and the NFSD specialist recommends that any person who commits violent acts against women—and who recognises they need help and want to stop—should explore the counselling and therapy options which the Division facilitates.

“It is very unlikely that a person would voluntarily seek help but in the event that they do, these services are available through the NFSD,” the Division specialist explains. 

“The harsh reality though, is sometimes therapy for men is suggested only after the person commits an offence,” she points out.  “This is when the situation is brought to light by the authorities and recommendations are made for assistance.”

In addition to therapy, the Division believes powerful and continuous public information and education awareness campaigns on the issue of gender-based violence can make a difference in the statistics. 

“These types of programmes must be developed and promoted in an effort to have victims speak out, as well as to encourage perpetrators to seek help,” the Division specialist said.  “Last year, NFSD hosted a series of successful parenting workshops for men.  Similarly, in 2021, we are considering hosting more sensitization workshops for men, creating a safe space for them to speak out.”

For those in need of the services provided by the National Family Services Division (NFSD) can call 623-2608 ext. 6701 – 8.

Other agencies providing support and assistance to those caught up in gender-based violence situations include:

  • Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV)… contact them at 624-0402.
  • Gender Based Violence Unit (GBVU) in the Police Service… call the hotline numbers 555 and 999.
  • National Hotline for Victims of Domestic Violence… call 800-SAVE (7283).