Domestic violence may happen in the home, but its effects extend well beyond it, encroaching upon every aspect of life, including the workplace. In fact, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has been called a health epidemic. The TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, recognising the impact of this issue upon the workforce, facilitated the partnering of its Crime and Justice Committee with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) in order to draft a policy to guide businesses in developing their own systems to address this critical national issue.
Domestic violence may take different forms – physical, emotional, sexual, financial, verbal or psychological. It is not confined to any age or social group, income bracket or gender. Children, the elderly, women, men, those who are well-off and those who are deprived may all experience some form of domestic violence, but it is most prevalent among women, who often fall victim to their partners.
The effects of violence in the home are far-reaching. Not only does it affect the victim in terms of physical, mental and emotional health, it impacts upon the children who witness abusive behaviour. The policy notes, “People who witness or experience abuse as children are also more likely to use violence as adults. It is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, though these may be immediate triggering factors.” The links between domestic violence and several social ills – including crime – is well documented.
According to the Women’s Health Survey, undertaken by the United Nations Development Programme in 2017, one in every three women in TT is a victim of IPV. This is consistent with global rates. The most common type of IPV involved slapping, having an object thrown at them, being pushed or shoved, and being hit with a fist or object. The website of the Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Development) notes that over a five-year period covering 2010 to 2015, the Police Crime and Problem Analysis Unit recorded 11,441 cases of domestic violence, with 75 per cent of those involving women. Further, there were 131 domestic violence-related deaths during the same period, of which 56 per cent were female. With approximately 498,009 women in TT over the age of 18, this is a phenomenon that needs to be closely monitored.
Globally, domestic violence is under-reported, as there is often a taboo against speaking about it. An Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study found that nearly one-third of IPV survivors felt that domestic violence was a private matter between husband and wife. This perspective is reinforced by entrenched social attitudes, with neighbours often deciding to “stay out”. Police complain that many victims, having made a report, choose not to prosecute and end up back in the cycle of abuse. Unfortunately, a non-interventionist strategy can – and far too often, does – lead to loss of life.
The policy notes that “the experience of harm and insecurity” follows both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence to work, affecting both morale and productivity: “Abused persons may be late to work, have excessive and unaccustomed absences, seem stressed out and may be unable to concentrate or work productively. These behaviours can make it seem like the victim is an unsatisfactory team member when the person is experiencing effects of an abusive relationship. Similarly, persons who are perpetrating domestic violence may also demonstrate signs (such as aggression, distraction, and emotional volatility) which may affect their work performance. We therefore recognise that domestic violence is a workplace issue, even if incidents occur elsewhere and we must all be involved in creating a culture of zero tolerance of domestic violence.”