Domestic violence – also known as intimate partner violence – occurs between people in intimate relationships. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Domestic violence can occur in heterosexual or same sex relationships.

FLASKBACK: Minister of Human Services Dr Vindhya Persaud (fourth from right) with stakeholders including, from left to right, Hilton Wong, Senior Business Manager, GTT; Diego Alphonso, Senior Gender Affairs Officer at the Ministry; Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifton Hicken. Guyana’s Head of Digicel Business Sales, Nalini Vieira; and Irfan Akhtar, Deputy Representative, UNICEF, pictured first and third right

Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses threatening, hurtful words and behaviors to control his or her partner.
It may not be easy to identify domestic violence at first. While some relationships are clearly abusive from the outset, abuse often begins subtle and gets worse over time. You may experience domestic violence if you are in a relationship with someone who:
• Call you names, insult you or put you down
• Prevents or discourages you from going to work or school or seeing family members or friends
• Try to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear
• Acts jealously or possessively or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful
• Anger at drinking alcohol or using drugs
• Try to control whether you can see a healthcare provider
• Threatens you with violence or a weapon
• Hits, kicking, shooting, slapping, choking or otherwise hurting you, your children or your pets
• Forcing you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
• Blame you for his violent behavior or tell you you deserve it
• Threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members about your sexual orientation or gender identity
If you are lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you may also experience domestic violence if you are in a relationship with someone who:
• Tells you that authorities will not help a lesbian, bisexual or transgender person
• Tells you that leaving the relationship means you admit that lesbian, bisexual or transgender relationships are heterosexual
• Says that women cannot be violent
• Justifies abuse by telling you that you are not “real” lesbian, bisexual or transgender
Don’t take the blame
You may not be ready to seek help because you believe you are at least partly to blame for the abuse in the relationship. Reasons may include:
• Your partner blames you for the violence in your relationship. Abusive partners rarely take responsibility for their actions.
• Your partner only displays aggressive behavior with you. Abusers are often involved in outward appearances, and can appear charming and stable to those outside of your relationship. This may lead you to believe that his actions can only be explained by something you have done.
• Therapists and doctors who see you alone or with your partner have not found a problem. If you haven’t told your doctor or other healthcare providers about the abuse, they may only identify unhealthy patterns in your thinking or behavior, which can lead to misdiagnosis. For example, survivors of intimate partner violence may develop symptoms similar to personality disorders. Exposure to intimate partner violence also increases your risk of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If health care providers focus on your symptoms, this may exacerbate your fear that you are responsible for the abuse in your relationship.
• You have acted verbally or physically against your abuser, shouting, pushing, or hitting him or her during a confrontation. You may worry that you are being aggressive, but it is much more likely that you have acted in self-defense or intense emotional distress. Your abuser can use such incidents to treat you, describing them as proof that you are the abusive partner.
If you’re having trouble identifying what’s going on, take a step back and look at bigger patterns in your relationship. Then, review the signs of domestic violence. In an abusive relationship, the perpetrator who routinely uses these behaviors is the abuser. The person at the receiving end is being abused.

Pregnancy, children and abuse
Sometimes domestic violence starts – or increases – during pregnancy, putting your health and that of your baby at risk. The danger continues after the baby is born.
Even if your child is not abused, witnessing domestic violence can be damaging. Children brought up in abusive homes are more likely to be abused and have behavioral problems than other children. As adults, they are more likely to become abusers or think that abuse is a normal part of relationships.
You may be concerned that telling the truth will endanger you, your child or other family members further – and may ruin your family – but seeking help is the best way to protect your children and you. ‘ yourself.

Break the cycle
If you are in an aggressive situation, you may recognize this pattern:
• Your abuser threatens violence.
• Your abuser strikes.
• Your abuser apologizes, promises change and offers gifts.
• The cycle repeats itself.
Typically, the violence becomes more frequent and severe over time.
The longer you stay in an abusive relationship, the greater the physical and emotional toll. You may become depressed and anxious, or begin to doubt your ability to look after yourself. You may feel helpless or paralyzed.

Create a security plan
Leaving an abuser can be dangerous. Consider taking these precautions:
• Call a women’s refuge or domestic violence helpline for advice. Make the call at a safe time – when the abuser is not around – or from a friend’s house or other secure location.
• Pack an emergency bag containing items you will need when you leave, such as extra clothes and keys. Leave the bag in a safe place. Keep personal papers, money and important prescription medicines on hand so you can take them with you at short notice.
• Know exactly where you are going and how you will get there.

Protect your communications
and location
An abuser can use technology to monitor your phone and online communications and track your whereabouts. If you are worried about your safety, ask for help. To maintain your privacy:
• Use phones carefully. Your abuser may intercept calls and listen to your conversations. He or she may use the caller ID, check your mobile phone or search your phone billing records to see your call and texting history.
• Use your home computer carefully. Your abuser may use spyware to monitor your emails and the websites you visit. Consider using a computer at work, the library or at a friend’s house to ask for help.
• Remove GPS devices from your vehicle. Your abuser may use a GPS device to identify your location.
• Change your email password frequently. Choose passwords that would be impossible for your abuser to guess.
• Clear your viewing history. Follow your browser instructions to clear any record of websites or graphics you have seen.

Get help
In Guyana there are a number of organizations that provide help to victims of domestic violence. The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security recently launched the toll-free 914 helpline for people experiencing domestic abuse.
When a call is placed between the hours of 08:00 hrs and 16:30 hrs, it would be referred to a trained customer service operator, who in turn will link the call to a Social Worker. Calls made after work hours and at weekends will be directed to Social Workers mobile handsets where confidentiality will be handled on all calls. The Social Workers will provide necessary consultations and refer children and parents to local service providers and other relevant agencies. (Extracts from Mayo Clinic)