Combatting domestic violence in Grenada: The LACC experience
The tri-island state of Grenada—comprising Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique—is home to a population of just over 100,000 residents. Although Grenada has made great strides in tourism, education and other industries, the country, like many in the Caribbean Region, struggles with social problems, including crime and violence. The issue of gender-based violence (GBV), in particular, is one that has raised concerns.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) analysis, one in three women worldwide will experience violence. In Grenada, there is significant statistical evidence of GBV. Based on records kept by the Royal Grenada Police Force, there were 1,630 reported cases of sexual offences during the period 2000 to 2010.
“Over the course of the last few years we have been quite disturbed by the trends that we see, especially the tendency to use violence as a way of settling almost any kind of conflict,” said Tyrone Buckmire, Director, Legal Aid and Counselling Clinic (LACC).
“Unfortunately, in a number of instances, we have had spouses and partners being killed by the male partners in the relationships. Primarily we see offences and charges brought to court that have to do with wounding, causing harm, assault, but we also have as chargeable offences under the domestic violence act, threatening language, offensive language and so forth,” he added.
In 2016, LACC received a grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to strengthen its capacity to provide psychosocial and psycho-educational programming, and public education to address GBV.
The funding supported three programmes: “Man-to-Man”, a court-mandated violence intervention and group counselling programme for men who have committed acts of GBV; “CHANGES”, an 11-week group counselling programme for women who have been victims of GBV; and “Alternatives”, which caters to young men 18 years old or younger, who come into conflict with the law.
“Man-to-Man” is a 16-week intervention that teaches concepts and techniques to replace violence, and control abusive behavior. It emphasises respect, open communication and healthy and equitable relationships,
“Men come together to discuss issues and topics that affect them. The whole aim of the programme is to show that violence is a choice,” noted Jeannine Sylvester-Gill, Project Manager, LACC.
The group sessions offer a safe space for participants to discuss their feelings, and to better understand the causes of GBV. They learn techniques and methods to help them manage their anger.
“What I’ve realized over the years is that a lot of our men folk, we talk about a lot of other things, we talk about women, we talk about sports, we talk about our children, we talk about our car, but we don’t talk about our feelings. And Man to Man has facilitated that. I’ve had sessions where when guys basically start to talk about their feelings they break down and they cry, but it’s a safe space for them to do that,” said Arthur Pierre, one of the facilitators, for the Man-to-Man programme.
The men who finished the programme report that it has had a positive impact in their lives.
“I stopped drinking alcohol from this class because it was a ‘no-no’ in the class to be coming there under the influence of alcohol or any substance of drugs. So I worked on that, I worked on myself, inner and outer, and I benefitted. I am still alcohol free […] I don’t smoke drugs, and I landed myself in a good job. All of this came from the class,” said one participant.
Countries around the world, including Grenada, have committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5)—that is, to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
“CHANGES” supports the achievement of this goal. In this programme, women who have been victims of domestic violence share experiences and gain skills to break the cycle of violence. The sessions cover topics such as self-esteem, domestic violence and the law and effects of abuse.
Shakey Cornwall, Counselling Psychologist, LACC, says that women are sharing their experiences, while developing skills and techniques for building healthy relationships, demanding respect and achieving equality in relationships. And this approach is working. Following the completion of the programme, the women reported that they feel more in control of their lives, more confident that they can change things, more knowledgeable about their rights, and more supported.
“I’ve learnt to respect myself and let others have respect for me and I set boundaries and values for myself now and the things I need to eliminate from my life, I did these things so I know I am on the right track now,” said one participant.
Another participant added, “I got a lot of knowledge, as old as I am, I never saw abuse in that way. I thought abuse was only like [if] somebody hit you but getting to understand and going in[to] more details about abuse and stuff like that was helpful.”
In addition to the psychosocial and psycho-educational programming, the project provided funding for public education workshops over the two-year implementation period. LACC ran 36 workshops, which over 600 Grenadians attended.