Analysis of a group with low social power in the student’s community: Diversity and Oppression: Victims of Domestic Violence
Electronic International Social Work
Analysis of a group with low social
power in the student’s community:
Diversity and Oppression: Victims of
BY: GITA JAGLAL BANKAY
University of the West Indies
Trinidad and Tobago
Introduction to Student’s
Geographic location: South Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago,
Name of Community: South Oropouche
Background: Villagers worked in the oilfields, however,
closure of oil wells and drilling stations led to mass
unemployment . (Ministry of Planning: Household Budget
Citizens experienced financial distress: National Insurance
Board’s Report (1988): notes that nationally:
80% of mortgage portfolios were in arrears;
the Structural Adjustment Programme(1982-1990) led to the
new poor, improper health and nutritional care, alcohol and
• Upsurge of violence within homes led to trauma, death.
The victims of domestic violence (women, children,
elders) the most vulnerable targets of oppression in
this community. They become recluses in their homes,
subservient to their abuser, always burdened with
worries .The family is ostracized from society.
. Functionalist Durkheim’s outlook on the rise of domestic
violence, as an early warning system that a part of the
society is malfunctioning and is in need of social
engineering. (Mustapha 2000).
STRUCTURE OF THE COMMUNITY
DEMOGRAPHICS OF THE COMMUNITY
Rural: population settlement patterns are both scattered in small
clusters (villages) and linear along the main roads where the main
economic activity is skewed towards manufacturing (soft drinks),
Predominant diverse ethnic groups: Africans, East Indians and
within the last 5 years the Chinese have entered the community
Population size: approximately 3,500 persons
Population Age: Mixed ages, but mainly Aging, due to better health
care/service and migration of youths to urban centres
There are more women than men. This observation is supported by:
i) The Draft National Policy on Gender Development (2007), showing
a higher number of single female headed households;
ii) more women are visible in community based programmes –
The Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme
(CEPEP), Unemployment Relief Programme (URP).
Linear Settlement in South Oropouche
-small businesses: owners of the means of
Cluster of houses in South Oropouche:
Non-ownership of the means of production
Mixed levels of social strata: largest comprising the lower-income level
Marx’s view that society is characterized by class inequality-results in
people having 2 different positions:
i) Relationship of ownership to the means of production (land,capital)
-refer to those who live in linear settlement , along the main roads
ii) non-ownership - those living in the interior, narrow road clusters,
comprise the working class.
CONTEXT OF OPPRESSION
for Domestic Violence
Historically, McCaghy (1985) discovered the following:
i) Domestic Violence( D.V.) was given legal status, as wife beatings
were permitted as long as “the whip used was not bigger than the
ii) It was legal privilege: as the laws permitted, expected, accepted
iii) A wife cannot vex, discredit nor shame the family’s name, This is
applicable to the community of South Oropouche.
DV in this community occasionally ends in fermicide: murder of
women by their batterers . In Trinidad and Tobago, DV deaths
quadrupled from 9 in 2004 to 36 in 2008. The Ministry of Culture
and Gender Affairs (2009), revealed that death by domestic
violence has quadrupled in five (5)years, a 60% increase.
CONTEXT OF OPPRESSION
Some control/oppression experienced by victims on daily basis:
i) Overtly enforced social isolation: (Regehr and Glancy,1995),mails/
telephones monitored/disconnected, no interaction with family and
ii) Psychological abuse- constant undermining of the victim’s
inadequacy as a parent and lover, sense of self, ridiculing and
iii) Financial Abuse- seizing victim’s paycheck, grocery & other
receipts monitored, jointly owned assets removed to abuser’s name,
denying victim access to education, refusing to pay maintenance.
iv) Threats to hurt the children, self or spouse or items they treasure
v) With-holding important documents: ID Cards, passport, driver’s
vi) Physical abuse: punching, slapping, kicking, hitting with objects
vii) Sexual Abuse: forced to sexually appease abuser, rape (38% by
husbands,13% by lovers and 6% by strangers)(Websdale,1998,
SPECIFIC GROUP with LOW SOCIAL POWER
Victims of Domestic Violence include women, children
and elders who constitute those of low socio-economic
class: little finance, poor housing/squatters; low literacy
rates and irregular employment. These lack bargaining
power, equity/equality in accessing resources.
Persons living with substance abusers: Gelles (1974)
related that drugs and alcohol influenced men to attack
their wives only when they are intoxicated or “high”,as
such, people who are in such environments have a
higher probability of being victims of Domestic Violence
The poor, uneducated women and children- part of
the systemic poor. Theory of Intergenerativity explains
that the cycle of poverty from childhood, galvanized
some to the lifestyle of poverty and domestic violence.
EXPERIENCES OF VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC
Victims of Domestic Violence make numerous reports
to the police and take out restraining/protective orders.
Most report that the criminal justice system are
unresponsive and depersonalized.
The victims described the police as placing them in a
passive situation. The police demonstrate lack of
cooperation, insensitivity and failure to act. This may be
because this oppressed group may be considered
without a VOICE and lack the power to change their
ANALYSIS OF HOW OPPRESSION FUNCTIONS IN THIS
Alwin,(1984) states that DV victims are stressed due to
overload and multiple demands: housework, parenting,
decision making without a partner.( Hepworth and
These stressors are encountered at the same time,
leaving the victim with feelings of failure in the
relationship, loss of valuable friendships and may be
living in poverty .
Danieli (1998) study stated that trauma and its impact
often become a part of the family legacy, pass down
through the generations. (Yarvis, et al.,2004) This
indicates that despite efforts, the effects of Domestic
Violence are cyclic and it is difficult for some to get out
of its grasp.
Oppression results in victims suffering from Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) : problems that are
developed outside the coping ability of the victim,
following a psychologically stressful event (beating) .
Creates fear: one symptom is hyper arousal, demonstrated by the
victim’s persistent expectation of danger and is manifested by
startled reactions, hyper- alertness/arousal and vigilance for the
return of dangers, nightmares and psychosomatic complaints.
DV impacts on the victim’s psyche, who may decide to leave with
the children and move to a home, shelter, enter a victim-witness
protection programme. This physical displacement to a new location
complicates psychological recovery, disrupts belongingness and
rooted ness and often magnifies the effects of the trauma felt by DV.
ANALYSIS OF HOW OPPRESSION FUNCTIONS
IN THIS CONTEXT cont’d……………
ANALYSIS OF HOW OPPRESSION FUNCTIONS
IN THIS CONTEXT cont’d……………
In Trinidad and Tobago, cases filed at the Magistrate's
Court increased from 8,976 in 2003 to 11,629 in 2009, a
60% increase in 5years.(The Ministry of Culture and
Gender Affairs in 2009).
DISCUSS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF OPPRESSION AGAINST
THIS GROUP WITH LOW SOCIAL POWER IN TERMS OF
SOCIAL JUSTICE, SOCIAL WORK VALUES AND HUMAN
Victims of domestic violence represents one of the
most vulnerable groups of society and as such,
access to resources, finance, education are not
They survive on past coping strategies but lack
basic and much needed social support from the
immediate community, society and by large, the
Inadequate structures, rehabilitative services,
ineffective legislation/policies affects this group.
Significance of oppression in terms of
Police officers are the first representatives of the
criminal justice system who victims encounter.
Conflict with victims erupt because of :
Slowness to respond
Reluctance to believe victim’s account of what
Inability/ Unwillingness to make an arrest of abuser
Insensitivity on the part of some police officers
towards victims at a time of great vulnerability
SOCIAL JUSTICE continued……
Arrests are not automatic. Police officers exercise a great deal of
personal and departmental discretion in deciding if to, who to
arrest/release because of the pressure from colleagues, superiors,
personal stance, nature of offense and the relationship between the
offender and victim.
Dismissed cases, dropped charges and disturbing deals make
victims feel abandoned and that satisfaction is denied. The
prosecutor determination is based on limited state resources,
whether indictment serves as a deterrent or other social purposes or
to enhance his career. Nine out of ten cases are resolved by ‘plea
bargain’ rather than trial ( Defendant agrees to make a confession-
drops certain charges). Limiting social justice?
Lawyers abusing continuances of cases to wear victims down (stall
proceedings to buy time) by creating scheduling difficulties and
asking for postponements. Discrediting victims on the witness
stands; decision making behind closed doors. These interferes with
natural social justice.
SIGNIFICANCE OF OPPRESSION
IN TERMS OF SOCIAL WORK
This vulnerable group require social work intervention to
restore their social functioning
Social worker’s roles as advocates, facilitators,
counselors, brokers, catalysts are crucial
Use of social work skills: empathy, unconditional positive
regard, congruence, active listening to build
relationships with the oppressed.
Empowerment of individuals: access to information and
services, training, new skills, to help themselves, learn
coping mechanism, develop capacity in order to maintain
Social Work continued…..
Social workers should be acutely aware of the culture
and diversity of rural communities, as South Oropouche.
Be non-judgmental, allow clients to self determination,
be self aware of biases and prejudices .
Social workers can develop agency supports for families
and women experiencing domestic violence
Form linkages with Government Agencies, NGOs,
CBOs, Private Sector and other stakeholders
Existing Supports for Abused
Women in South Trinidad:
Legislation: Domestic Violence Act.
(Act No. 27 of 1999)
Services: Rape Crisis Society, Half way Houses- the
Missionaries of Charity, St. Vincent De Paul’s Home for
Working Women; Children Homes: Hope Centre,
Operation Smile, Mother’s Union.
Halfway House- Missionaries of Charity, South Oropouche
Significance of oppression in
terms of Human Rights
The International community has developed instruments
and mechanisms which provide a framework within
which member countries can deal with DV.
These have been ratified and incorporated into Trinidad
and Tobago’s constitution. Such as:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR,1948):
Article 1 states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human right.
Article 2 states that “everyone is entitled to all rights, freedoms set forth in the
declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as …sex, or other status”.
Article 3 states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.
Article 5 states that no one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading
These provisions indicates that violence against women violates
Human Rights continued……
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR,1966): Articles 2, 6, 7, 9, covers issues of
gender based violence.
The UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence
against Women (DEVAW, 1993),recognizes that gender
violence is rooted historically in unequal power relations
and outlines the duties of the state. Trinidad and Tobago
The Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC);
States take measures to protect children from all abuse.
Effective implementations of these provisions, training,
providing more facilities, passing of more relevant laws
may positively reduce oppression and violence.
What Can be Done?
Need for ongoing Government support, commitment and political
will for decision making.
Involve all stakeholders: relevant Governments departments, NGOs,
CBOs, FBOs, victims/survivors, in policy making.
Special training for Police officers, Judiciary, service providers
Provide more crisis centres, shelters for women and children.
New legislation: unemployment compensation to cover loss of jobs
due to DV; emergency leave for victims of DV, to source legal,
medical help, counseling and safety planning; waive certain
eligibility clauses for social welfare.
Collecting, compiling and analyzing data and maintain a data base.
Identify sources of funding
Set criteria for monitoring and evaluating action taken.
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