Health Social Services coordinator, Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson, says intimate partner violence, or domestic violence, has been recognized globally as “a problem of epidemic proportions” and that if left unchecked, can become an incubator for societal violence.

She said as a result, domestic violence – which she said is occurring at unacceptable levels within The Bahamas – must continue to be viewed as a crime and “a misuse of power and control over the victim and a situation that can result in the death of the victim.”
Addressing a town meeting on the proposed Domestic Violence and Protection Orders Bill 2006, Dr. Dean-Patterson said the “ineffectiveness” of the present “Binding-Over Orders” which are expected to be strengthened within the proposed legislation, is reflected in the “daily incidences of persons seeking treatment at the Emergency Room of the hospital.”

She said the damaging effects of the violence are further reflected in the country’s homicide rate since 2000 which, she said, has shown that the number of murders committed against women as a result of intimate partner violence account for “an unacceptable percentage” of between 40-60 per cent.

Dr. Dean-Patterson said a 2004 survey of “just one” Police Station is New Providence showed that there were 668 complaints of domestic violence recorded at that station, figures she said that are “absolutely horrendous, absolutely unacceptable.”

“And when we look at the batterer himself, we found that sixty-seven per cent of them report having been a victim of child abuse and 53 per cent reported having witnessed violence in their homes as children (and) so you can see how it is a repeated cycle of problems that keep occurring,” Dr. Dean-Patterson said.

Dr. Dean-Patterson said the problem of intimate partner violence or domestic violence is having a tremendous toll on societies around the world. She said that in Canada, for example, 62 per cent of all of the murders committed against women were the result of intimate partner violence or domestic violence.

She said additionally, 42 per cent of the murders committed against women in Israel were the result of domestic violence; 73 per cent in Papua, New Guinea; 70 per cent in Brazil; 43 per cent in the United Kingdom and 70 per cent in the United States of America. Figures, she said, “that are all unacceptable.”

Dr. Dean-Patterson said the proposed legislation should help to reduce the instances of intimate partner violence (domestic violence) which in quite a bit of cases can be deadly, while providing relief for persons who are victims of the “criminal act.”

She said the legislation will, among other measures, allow Magistrates to provide an interim Protection Order to ensure the safety of the victim and it further enables the Magistrate to attach a power of arrest so that if, after the Protection Order is granted, the perpetrator still comes to hurt the victim, the perpetrator can be automatically arrested.

Persons found guilty of breaching the Protection Order can be fined up to five thousand dollars, imprisoned for a year and/or both. She said the Protection Order can remain in place for a period not exceeding more than three years and gives the police powers to enter premises where they suspect a Protection Order is being violated; someone has suffered or is in danger.

The proposed legislation will also require the abuser to pay rent and/or mortgage, in addition to restraining the abuser from entering or remaining in the home and can also result in the provision of compensation of up to ten thousands dollars for victims of intimate partner abuse.

“The matters taken into account in this legislation are protection from violence and the safety of the victim. That is the bottom line and that is why the legislation is so important,” Dr. Dean-Patterson said.

“It takes into consideration the welfare of the children in the home, the need to preserve and protect the institution of the family and the accommodation needs of the respondent,” she added.