One researcher at The University Of The West Indies (UWI), Mona is calling for the government and other stakeholders to train midwives across Jamaica to assist pregnant women who are victims of domestic violence.
Lecturer Cynthia Pitter is making the call based on her study “Pulling Back The Curtains On Domestic Violence In Pregnancy” in which some 36 per cent of pregnant women reported that they were physically abused by their spouses during pregnancy. Pitter’s research on domestic violence will be featured at UWI Research Days 2018 from February 7-9.
Pitter said clinics across the island should have at least one midwife who is trained in addressing domestic violence issues so that more women facing that struggle can be helped.
“So in case a nurse should come in contact with a patient who is being abused they could call that particular midwife,” Pitter explained.
She said the midwives trained in domestic violence may not be able to directly report domestic violence to the police as this may go against hospital policy. But she says they would be able to inform pregnant women of actions they can take and also inform hospital social workers who could then intervene on behalf of at-risk mothers.
“If we could get the patients to look into themselves, to examine and say, ‘do I need to remain in this relationship? Do I want to raise my child in an abusive relationship where this cycle of violence will continue?’"
She continued,"We say talk is cheap but when someone is having a problem and they have someone else to talk to it’s a start,” said Pitter whose study revealed that only 11 per cent of victims sought professional help after being abused.
Her study also found that the pregnant women who were prone to domestic abuse were between 23-29 years old and 65 per cent reported that they had unplanned pregnancies.
However she added that women often shy away from reporting domestic abuse , pointing to studies which reveal many women only confess domestic abuse after being asked over thirty times.
She maintains with adequate training, midwives could help to decrease the problem. She also said her findings could contribute to the national strategy to eliminate violence against women, reduce the health burden of maternity services and assist in achieving the maternal health goals for 2030.
“One of my recommendations is also that the Jamaica Constabulary Force collate the data for domestic violence in such a way that intimate partner violence is different from the regular domestic violence. That would be good because we could get a clearer picture of what is happening and we would how many women are being abused by their partners during pregnancy,” Pitter added.
Laws against domestic abuse in Jamaica are outlined in the Domestic Violence Act. Amid national outcry against a number women who were killed in domestic disputes in 2016 year, the government had implemented a measure where the police were empowered to remove aggressors from the scene of domestic disputes and remand them until the situation diffuses.