Dr Sue Ann Barratt

COVID-19 has triggered a tremendous rise in gender-based violence including situational partner violence and intimate terrorism says Dr Sue Ann Barratt, Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies.

She was speaking on the Morning Brew ifollowing to the killing of 15-month-old Sariah Williams, who was brutally chopped by a male relative while she was in her grandmother’s arms at Taradale Gardens, Ste Madeleine last Sunday.

The child’s grandmother had been a victim of domestic violence for years but had always forgiven her partner and resumed their relationship despite the abuse.

Barratt said it appears the grandmother was a victim of both types of gender-based violence.

She noted that forgiveness was an ideal and most times the victims do it not for their self-interest but because of the pressure they face from other family members and society’s norms.

“Forgiveness is an ethical ideal but how can you forgive if you are being controlled or coerced? You’re not acting out of your interest, you’re acting because you think this is what you’re supposed to do. This is not only because of your partner’s influence but because of the social norms and social context that reinforces that control,” she said.

Barratt explained that there is a time to leave an abusive relationship.

“If you are living under intimate terrorism the first point is to reach out to someone whom you can trust, reach out to law enforcement and they will give you direction and counselling. They will put you in touch with other social organisations that address intimate terrorism.”

She said there should be no hesitation about going to the police.

Situational conflict, Barratt said escalates if issues are not resolved.

She said communication was the key to resolving such conflict but noted that not all situational partner violence cases are the same so strategies would depend on the circumstances of the parties involved.

“Since the pandemic across the world domestic violence and intimate partner conflict has increased tremendously. If you have situational partner violence or interpersonal conflict…the best way to resolve issues is to communicate and collaborate towards reaching a mutual resolution,” she said.

However, that is presuming that both parties can communicate effectively.

“In some cases, the conflict has to happen, so it can be functional rather than dysfunctional. So rather than avoid the conflict, one confronts, one argues; we say what we feel, and we resolve the issue before it festers and mushrooms because of repressed feelings,” she added.

She said compromise is never lasting and finding a mutually beneficial resolution is always better.