Family violence

Associating gender violence only with actions against women can help conceal other forms of abuse.

Social psychologists Mareelen Díaz and Yohanka Valdés raised this issue at a Meeting on Family, Gender and Equity held last September 16, at the National Psychological and Sociological Research Center (CIPS) in Havana.

The event was sponsored by the Oscar A. Romero (OAR) Reflection Group, a Christian organization that has been fighting violence and promoting a culture of peace for over 25 years.

"The idea has been to identify acts of gender inequality and violence under local conditions," Valdés indicated.

"Studies have shown that there is also economic violence at home, due to income disparity and ownership-related litigation," she added.

María T. Díaz, a psychologist working for OAR, said that family violence in Cuba involves acts against children, youngsters and older people.

Family: A complex scenario

A CIPS research work made it possible to come up with a good definition of family violence: any intentional act or omission causing physical and/or psychological damage and violating individual rights.

Statistical data on this issue do not abound, but they do confirm that local families are being negatively affected by psychological violence.

This was corroborated in a study by researchers Mariela Almenares, Isabel Louro and María T. Ortiz, which was recently published by the Cuban Journal of Comprehensive General Medicine.

"These acts do not leave immediate, visible marks, but they do have a huge impact," Almenares emphasized.

"Some families are forcing older people to sleep in living rooms or corridors to rent their bedrooms," said Teresita García, head of the Psychiatry Department at the Manuel Fajardo Hospital in Havana.

Other forms of violence include abandonment, negligence, and failure to meet emotional needs.

This was one of the findings in a study carried out in the eastern province of Camagüey, which involved 230 women. Out of this total, 125 admitted having endured some kind of pressure or violence by their husbands due to their way of dressing and/or doing household chores.

On the other hand, the CIPS study revealed that most people on the island know what family abuse is, but they are overwhelmed by old myths and prejudices.

Out of 500 interviewees, 250 said that most victims are responsible for the acts of violence committed against them, and around 200 believed that family violence is a private issue.

Valdés finds it indispensable to get to the root of the problem. "It is being reproduced because old, traditional patterns are still being followed," she added.

"It should be closely related to social factors like income, race and schooling," she emphasized.

Díaz highlighted the need to further study life processes so as to better approach violence and formulate effective coping strategies.

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