It’s the question every survivor of domestic violence is posed, often incredulously: Why didn’t you just leave? The reality is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available. This week, stories like these became part of a national conversation when an allegation surfaced of Minister of Education; Patrick Faber who was accused of attacking his female counterpart. Subsequently, a report was made to the Belize City police where shortly after the report was withdrawn.

As the conversations surrounding domestic abuse continue to flood in, we hope this story will make it clear that “just leaving” often isn't an option. We hope this information will prompt people to stop asking why she stayed and instead begin asking how they can help. Maria Novelo reports.

Screen_Shot_2014-09-12_at_7.46.59_PMMaria Novelo – Reporting

Advocates and social activists working in the field of domestic violence say there is a welcome change among women in recent times, with many of them coming out, approaching police stations without fear to lodge their complaints. Violence against women and girls says Women’s Development Officer, Makesha Suazo, is one of the most widespread violations of human rights that frequently occur among intimate couples.

Makesha Suazo – Women’s Development Officer

“I believe it is a Public Health issue because it happens rampant in the community, it happens a lot in the Orange Walk District and it is something that the community does not take seriously.  It is rather funny because even when cases of domestic violence has been reported to the police or to our office, people that are victims of domestic violence they themselves do not think that it is something serious that they need to go to the other level of care.”

While many victims offer hundreds of reasons, ranging from the logistical to the deeply personal, some common themes emerged: Fear, Love, Family, Money, Shame and Isolation are among the many factors they stay in the toxic relationship. Swazo says that domestic violence has psychological effects not only on the victim but on children.

Makesha Suazo – Women’s Development Officer

“There are many factors why women remain it this relationship; one it has to do with children, in most cases believe that it is not appropriate for them to raise their kids on their own the kids always will need the father, even though domestic violence does not only affect women it affects men also but in most cases women that are victims of domestic violence and not men. Women not only because of their children remain in this abusive situation but also because of economic reasons they are totally independent on the father, some women don’t have family support they have nowhere to go so they remain in that situation, some women are not skilled so they believe that they are not able to go out into the work force and find a job to help themselves and their children so the remain in that situation, some women remain in the situation for religious reason; you are married to me until death do us part, so whatever the situation is they are not going to say anything about it as well as fear some women are fearful for their lives, they are psychologically abuse; if you leave me I’ll kill you or your family members so they are afraid of that so they don’t want to leave.”

While there are countless television adverts, leaflets, posters and organizations that talk specifically about this issue, nothing has stopped domestic violence from becoming a societal health problem.

Makesha Suazo – Women’s Development Officer

“In terms of business if you have employees that are not coming to work because they are being abuse in their homes, how does that affect you as an employer? Talking about school system it affects our entire society, or entire community but we just have to open our eyes to see exactly what is going on.  At the end of the day, what is very important is that you need to make up your mind on what it is that you want to do about your situation, we cannot solve your problem for you it is your life but we can give you the information and the tools and the options and then you make up your mind on what you want to do with that information that we handed on to you and that is the way it works it is a, Domestic Violence is a civil matter is not a criminal matter, is not like in the states where the state is responsible for it you are responsible for your actions here.”

But men are not immune to domestic violence; Suazo says some cases have surfaced.

Makesha Suazo – Women’s Development Officer

“The reason why men do not come and report domestic violence as much as women it is because they are embarrassed or ashamed, those are the few that would come and some of them feel that it is not important and especially when they are not ready to leave a relationship then they don’t see the need to report it.”

It is only through educating women, men and children around the country that domestic violence will never be tolerated and this issue can get some type of recognition.

Makesha Suazo – Women’s Development Officer

“We give a lot of information to women and men, not only information about what is abuse and how the abuse affect you as a person but also the laws, there is a Domestic Violence Act; you could go to jail for beating up your partner but there is a process for you to go through to reach to that level, understanding the process is very key, knowing your rights as a woman or as a man in terms of domestic violence is very important and this is the information that we put out there because people out there they don’t know exactly what are their rights under the domestic Violence Act. If you are living in a domestic violence situation and you are not comfort about then it is best that you come out and talk about it, learn about your options, get the information about what domestic violence is; some people would come in a and say he does not beat me but he call me this, he do e this and that is abuse, that is violence so knowing the information make it easier for you to know where you stand as a person.”

It is important to teach women and children that they can never tolerate this type of abuse, just as much as it is important to teach men that domestic abuse can never be justified. To raise awareness and trigger action to end this global scourge, the United Nation observes International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.

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