More and more victims of domestic violence are choosing not to pursue a case against their abusive partners when it is brought before a local court.
In the past two weeks, the Magistrate’s Court has dismissed at least five matters relating to domestic violence due to an unwillingness by a complainant (victim) to cooperate.
In those instances, they tell the court: “I am no longer interested … I want the matter dropped.”
“It is a normal thing in domestic violence cases,” said Family Support Network (FSN) Director Sasha Stoutt whom BVI News invited for a comment.
“Sometimes they have been in the courts for a very long time and the reality is they may want to leave and they are going into the unknown and they get scared … and they go back [to the abusive relationship],” she said.
Stoutt said her organisation has grown to understand and empathise with these abuse victims.
“It is a cycle and it is part of the cycle for domestic violence. And, we continue to support them, and let them know that regardless of what their choices are, we will still support them.”
Stoutt said when victims are at that level, ‘some are isolated and they have no one to reach out to.’
Do not blame them
The FSN director further said these persons should not be blamed for their actions.
“A lot of people on the outside looking in may not understand, but certain things are not that simple or easy when you are being controlled … It’s not easy.”
Meanwhile, a social worker at the Social Development Department, Ginny Jacobs, said she is directly involved in helping victims with protection orders and getting medical reports in the event there is an assault.
“We have had persons that we will sit with them all day … and they will retract and say they don’t want to follow with it anymore,” she remarked.
She said many domestic matters are not reported and those that reach the court are the ‘extreme’ cases.
Jacobs said there are have been five reported domestic violence related matters for this year.
She said there were four reported cases last year and 21 in 2016.
Jacobs said she believes the significant decrease in reported cases hinges on the fact that many people are still displaced by the hurricanes.
She said victims ‘try to cope’ with any abuse they are subjected to while living in under someone else’s roof. She said they, as a result, are not keen to report any matters of abuse as they would under normal circumstances.
She said statistics have shown that physical abuse is among the most prevalent in the British Virgin Islands.
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