Developed by Cornerstone Foundation, June, 2003
Liana Epstein, Women’s Program Coordinator
The Nature of Domestic Violence
Belizean Factors and Statistics
Coping with Domestic Violence
Legal and Medical Procedures
This manual is only a beginning. It will give you the facts you need to know, tips on how to council, a rundown on the resources available in your community, and more. What it will not give you, what it cannot give you, is the look of pure fear in the eyes of a woman living with abuse, the blue and purple swollen face of a woman who’s husband threw a pot at her head last night, the tears of a child who has watched his father beating his mother almost to the point of death. These are the things that you will be faced with as a counselor that no one can prepare you for.
As a counselor, you are giving your counselees the courage to dream of a better life, and someone to talk to just when they were beginning to think that there was no hope left. The people you will talk to will be at rock bottom, and you are a tunnel to the light. You can’t drag them there, but you can show them the way. This is not to say that you are superior, we’re all human, and all equal, but only that you have gifts that you can share with them: hope, belief, acceptance, and a friendly ear. Counseling, like most other things, comes easier with practice. Use this manual as a starting point and a guide, and use your heart, your guts, and you intelligence to fill in the gaps. Through your work as a counselor you are helping not only individuals, but your community as well. Human nature may have its ugly side, but you stand on the side of a brighter, better future. On behalf of the victims of abuse and society in general, thank you for your courage.
The perpetuation of myths about domestic violence are dangerous not only because they encourage social acceptance and apathy towards the problem, but also because many women believe them which leads them to justify, minimize or deny the violence they are experiencing. This prevents the vital step of acknowledging that they are in a dangerous and violent situation, which is an essential step towards seeking help. Therefore, it is essential to dispel these myths both in the community at large and with individual counselees. The following are some of the most common myths that you will encounter: 1. “It’s just the odd domestic tiff. All couples have them.” It is true that all couples have disagreements at some point in their relationship. However, a relationship that involves violence amounts to more than a disagreement and is based on an imbalance of power and control. A relationship that is healthy, which includes the occasional verbal disagreement, is based on respect, trust, support and love for the other. Domestic violence involves constant or cyclic physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse. There is no room for any such abuse in a healthy relationship. It is harmful and dangerous. In England and Wales between one and two women are killed by their partners every week - unfortunately there are no corresponding statistics for Belize.
2. “It can’t be that bad or she’d leave.”
As listed previously, there are many, many reasons why a woman stays with her abuser. In Belize the practical hindrances to leaving an abuser are greater because there are not the same support services that are in place in most western countries.
3. “Domestic violence only happens in working class families” Although it is argued that poverty exacerbates domestic violence, in the sense that a woman’s options of other financial and practical support are very limited or non-existent, and that...