Research Examines Domestic Violence Interventions in the Caribbean

Rohan Jeremiah headshot.

Escalating rates of violence in families and among intimate relationships in Caribbean nations remains an understudied public health issue, and translating the public health significance and response is a regional challenge.  New research in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma from SPH’s Rohan Jeremiah, PhD, associate professor of community health sciences, seeks to build a systematic definition of domestic violence and intimate partner violence in the region and proposes strategies for health promotion.

“Violence has always existed throughout the history of the Caribbean,” Jeremiah said. “In this publication, we critically looked at the persistence of violence from the standpoint of explaining the public health significance and correlating its long-term effects among the victims and perpetrators. What we concluded is that there is a need develop multi-dimensional strategies and interventions to curtail the violence.”

His co-authored research, “Domestic Violence Through a Caribbean Lens: Historical Context, Theories, Risks and Consequences, examined the steps that should be taken to create a clear definition of domestic violence and intimate partner violence.  Their work acknowledges how the United Nations and the University of the West Indies have led inquiries on this area, but as Jeremiah says, the Caribbean need to be implemented to a systematic process of standardized data collection.

For example, when a patient visits a clinical setting, they may not exhibit traits readily associated with victims of domestic violence. However, routine intake forms and processes that include screening tools would be one strategy to initiate standardized data collection.

The article calls for broader conversations on conflict resolution, specifically building conflict resolution education and awareness in schools for adolescents and young adults.

“Exposure to violence occurs at a very young age,” Jeremiah said. “Incorporating non-violence conflict resolution practices within the educational curriculum, could be a way to address the possibility of someone resorting to violence later in life.”

Jeremiah says one of the challenges in the region is addressing a culture of silence reinforced by social groups and practices.  He says individuals do not feel empowered to speak out against  and seek help when institutions like churches or religious groups are not championing the public health significance of problem.  The article recommends domestic violence prevention interventions need to be built in collaboration with such institutions.

One of the central challenges’ public health practitioners and researchers face is that domestic violence is overshadowed by other emerging priority for Caribbean countries.  For example, in recent years, climate change has emerged as an eminent danger to the Caribbean populations. As a consequence, the resources and funding for public health initiatives that focus on domestic violence do not garner as much attention.  However, as Jeremiah noted, his initial introduction into studying domestic violence and intimate partner violence, occurred in environments that were devasting hurricanes that ravaged the Eastern Caribbean islands. One of the most notable aftermaths of the storms was the increase in domestic violence incidences during disaster recovery.  Since then, Jeremiah has focused on exploring Caribbean domestic violence in the aftermath of disasters.

“We [as authors] approached this research as Caribbean-Americans and people throughout the Caribbean Diaspora who understand the dynamic across the Caribbean region,” Jeremiah said. “It is sort of angle we don’t see a lot in publications that features research about violence in the Caribbean. We carefully ensured that such perspectives were central to the production of this article.”