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Jan 29, 2021

The Problem of Domestic Violence!

Gender-based violence is a serious human rights violation with major social and developmental implications from an individual to a familial level that extends wider to the community and society.  Domestic violence has psychological, behavioral, physical, and sometimes deadly consequences. It is a growing problem across the world, and when we look closer at home – there are many efforts to combat this issue.  The numbers show that domestic violence disproportionately affects women and girls.  Reporter Andrea Polanco has the story.


On the Phone: Venancio Guzman, Father of Deceased [File: October 14th, 2020]

“She was a young girl when she went with him. I gave them my blessings. I didn’t know the type of person he was. He showed a beautiful, smiling face to us. My two sons worked with him and one of them asked Mari to return with them because her husband was mistreating her. He used to even take out his gun. He didn’t care. The thing is that he treated her so badly until now I am finding out just how abusive her husband was to her. I used to call her every two three days and I used to ask her, ‘daughter, how are you? Are you okay?’ and she would reply, ‘yes, dad, I am ok’ but she was clearly not okay.”


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Indeed, Marisela Gonzalez wasn’t okay. In October 2020, her naked body was found with a single gunshot to the head at a dumpsite in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. Her father, Venancio Guzman, was shocked find out that her husband David Gonzales was the killer. That’s because Marisela lived an abusive life but she hid that abuse from her family until it was too late. There are many reasons women stay in violent relationships – this can range from fear to economic need.


Karen Cain

Karen Cain, Executive Director, Youth Enhancement Services

“Some of these women rely on their partners in domestic violent situation because they are the breadwinners. They feel like they are in love and when domestic violence is being perpetrated you have emotional abuse; psychological abuse; and all the other sexual abuse involved in that domestic violence and so that woman sometimes feel she is to blame.   Some of the women will tell you they stay because of the children because they don’t want their children to not know their father or be with a man who isn’t their father.”


So, for many, abuse becomes a cycle. It is often difficult for women to walk away from these violent, manipulative relationships. Global studies show that an abused woman tries to break free from her abuser for an average of seven times. Executive Director of the Women’s Commission Cynthia Williams says violence is normalized in Belize to the point where women are physically harmed and they don’t see it as abuse.


Cynthia Williams, Executive Director National Women’s Commission

“As a society we have normalized violence and we keep using systemic oppression, particularly for women and even the use of culture is used to justify violence and inequality overall. We use traditional cultural beliefs for how women should be treated and the fact that society has normalized unhealthy behaviours, a lot of time people don’t understand that in their relationship there is abuse.”


A closer look at the data from the past few years’ show that the issue is a prevalent one – with more than two thousand reports of abuse per year. That violence has claimed the lives of thirty-six women between 2018 and 2019. In 2018, there were two thousand and sixty-one reports of domestic violence, seventy-eight percent of the victims identified as females. The 2018 statistics show that five hundred and seventy common-law husbands were the abusers; followed by three hundred and sixty-six categorized as “other relatives”; three hundred and twenty-eight ex-common-law husbands and two hundred and fifty-six husbands. The report for 2020 is still being compiled, Williams says the preliminary figures for the first half of the year alone are troubling.


Cynthia Williams

Cynthia Williams

“Up to July 2020, we were already into one thousand four hundred and seventy-four cases. That is only mid-year. So, it would be safe to say that if we didn’t reach the two thousand mark, it would have passed a little so. So, it is safe to say that it is an issue because these are just reported cases, not all cases.”


So, what’s driving this violence against women in Belize?


Cynthia Williams

“When we talk about patriarchy, we talked about the social relations of power between men and women and vice versa and even between men and men. It is really ideas, norms and values that maintain a class, gender, racial and even sexuality, privilege and even status quo where you find that power is given to me and many times they rely on keeping that power and control through violence.   We even find instances where legislatively, structurally which is even worse because it really integrates those types of oppressive norms or values into our system. Because of these systems, we have in so many waysallowed or the message, how powercan also affect men negatively because they have to maintain this persona that doesn’t allow them to communicate or to express themselves other than violence. So, that is one of the areas really, that’s the underlying factor and cause of gender-based violence.”


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 0-800-A-WAY-OUT. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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