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Police urge victims of domestic violence to have safety plan before leaving relationship

The police are warning victims of domestic violence not to tell their partners that they are leaving the relationship as this could compromise their safety and security.

The issue of domestic violence is again dominating public discourse after 41-year-old police constable Damien Blair was reportedly killed during a dispute with his wife at their home in Somerset, Manchester on Monday.

It's reported that Constable Blair had expressed a desire to leave the home he shared with his wife because of problems in their marriage.  

Deputy Superintendent of Police Jacqueline Dillon, head of the JCF Domestic Violence Intervention Centre, said victims of abuse can be seriously harmed by their partners when they state an intent to leave the relationship. 

Before leaving the relationship, she suggested, persons must have several things in place, including important documents, money and a safe location unknown to the other partner.   

"Do not say you’re going to leave tomorrow because that is an additional trigger if the person really is violent, and so it should be a secret. And this is what we have been saying to victims of domestic violence, that you have to have what we call a safety plan.... Your safety plan does not include you telling the perpetrator that I’m leaving, because once you do that, you’re putting yourself in harms’ way," she explained. 

DSP Dillon said victims of domestic violence can seek assistance from the police to leave their homes.

The police can also help victims to develop their safety plan, whether they decide to leave or remain in the household with their abusers. 

"If you intend to stay, this is what you need to do. You’re going to develop some code that is only known between you and somebody who you trust who has no affiliation with the abuser, that if something happens, that code can be used. You can also share that code with that police officer who is au fait with your situation or who has been dealing with your situation, that if the officer gets that call and you use that code, they know that you’re in danger and what it is that we ought to do."

'Men, seek help'

Additionally, DSP Dillon has urged men who are victims of domestic violence not to shy away from seeking help.

She noted that some men who are victims of domestic violence are too embarrassed to get help because of the societal belief that a man should be in command of his home. 

"The Bureau of Gender Affairs also have a helpline for men who are victims of domestic violence, so if you feel that you really don’t want to go to a police station because you are so embarrassed in doing so, [then] use the other avenues that are available for help," she pointed out. 

The senior cop reiterated that men should not be ashamed to get help as this could allow them to survive whatever situation they are experiencing at home.  

DSP Dillion was a guest Wednesday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106.

Corporal punishment a factor 

Psychologist Leachim Semaj has asserted that corporal punishment is a contributing factor to incidents of domestic violence in Jamaica.

Dr. Semaj, who was also a guest Wednesday on the Morning Agenda, said corporal punishment teaches children to use violence as a means of settling disputes.

"What corporal punishment does, it teaches children four things: You can hit somebody one, if they upset you. You can hit somebody if they disappoint you…if they did something wrong… if you are bigger than them."

He said when these children become adults, they continue to see beating as their only option for expressing displeasure or to show who is in command of the household. 

Mr. Semaj said Jamaicans must unlearn these attitudes. He suggested there is a need to teach parents alternative methods of disciplining their children.