The UN Women Summary on the National Women’s Health Survey for T&T 2017 survey analysis reveals that in the 15 to 64-year-old age bracket, more than 100,000 women in T&T have experienced one or more acts of physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by male partners; approximately 11,000 are likely to still be in abusive relationships.
ECLAC's Gender Equality Observatory UN report official information for 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean shows that at least 3,287 women have been victims of femicide or femicide in 2018.
In the Caribbean, Saint Lucia had a rate of 4.4 femicides per 100,000 women in 2017, while in T&T the rate was 3.4 in 2018.
Data from the Crime and Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) revealed that there were 8,668 reports relating to domestic violence incidents between 2013 and 2018. Approximately 75 per cent of these reports were associated with female individuals. During the same period, there were 183 domestic violence-related deaths of which 54 per cent (99) were female. Twenty four of these women were killed in 2018.
Between October 2013 and September 2018 there were a total of 25,257 calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
What happens when a woman who is in a domestic abuse relationship summons up the courage to leave, but her partner doesn't want her to and threatens her with violence or worse?
What happens when the counselling sessions fail, the physical injuries and scars from her last beating heal, her partner apologises and promises it wouldn't happen again but continues to use her like a punching bag?
What is her last resort, should she learn to defend herself?
Guardian Media spoke with Krav Maga chief instructor Ian Levia of the Krav Maga Global Academy to find out if the Israeli self-defense system was one way to deal with domestic violence.
Unlike many traditional martial arts, the self-defense system is stripped of all the flowery movements and forms to its purest essence of combat and is derived from a combination of techniques from boxing, wrestling, aikido, judo, and karate along with realistic fight training.
Like most martial arts, Krav Maga encourages students to avoid physical confrontation. If this is impossible or unsafe, it promotes finishing a fight as quickly and aggressively as possible and attacks are aimed at the most vulnerable parts of the body.
Krav Maga also teaches defense against a grenade attack, gun attack, carjackings and kidnapping.
Speaking at the organisation's headquarters in Cunupia, Levia said "Domestic violence usually affects more women, they're on the losing end of that situation, but it affects men also. Recently we've seen in the news an escalation of domestic violence against women.
"Domestic violence occurs when any person who attempts to gain power or control over another person whether physically, verbally, emotionally or psychologically and is a learned bahaviour.
"Krav Maga teaches both men and women first to respect each other, the ideology behind it is one may walk in peace.
"It was built off of a military concept with its roots in the Israel Defence Forces where the emphasis was on aggressiveness; you train to defend yourself to the point where the aggressor must be rendered unable or unwilling to continue his attack."
He said Krav Maga translated literally as “contact combat,” the founder was Imi Lichtenfeld, deceased, and during his lifetime his mission was to develop one of the most effective self-defense systems for people to defend themselves.
Levia said in so doing he passed on all his knowledge and training to his number one student, Eyal Yanilov who has been responsible for spreading Krav Maga worldwide.
He said fortunately, members of the academy had been able to train directly with Yanilov and not only was he (Levia) the chief instructor for the academy, but also the Caribbean representative. Levia said he was in Israel at least twice a year training and updating techniques and the academy had 13 instructors, male and female, who were all Israeli certified.
He said, fortunately, the instructors came from different walks of life including a psychologist, teachers and bankers who brought a melting pot of understanding to the class.
Levia said more than 50 per cent of the academy's students had been involved in some form of physical and emotional abuse, most of it was domestic.
He said the majority of students were primarily women and they were now seeing the need to be empowered.
Levia said the biggest challenge female students faced was the societal mindset that it was not okay for women to hit or be aggressive as it was perceived as being unladylike.
He said women were conditioned all their lives that hitting was wrong, when they were asked to hit the striking pad, it was alien to them.
Levia said Krav Maga did not try to teach people to hit first, but to undo the conditioning in controlled aggressiveness, the conditioning began from young when the mother admonished her nursing baby not to bite, a parent telling a child don't hit his sibling.
He said boys were told to go outside and play; be rough that was okay. Girls were told be quiet and genteel, this must be balanced that it was okay to hit when justified.
Levia, who has 32 years in various martial arts disciplines such as kung fu, karate, judo kick boxing, Taiho Jutsu and has trained in Krav Maga since 2000, said in martial arts sporting tournaments and contests there were rules, however, on the streets or when violence enters the home, Krav Maga has no rules—anything goes, vulnerable and vital areas that are off-limits in martial arts sports, even boxing, such as the eyes, throat and groin, are targeted.
He said after the first day in class, women say they felt so empowered, it was a life-changing experience, and the teaching methodology for them was so very different.
Levia said after they become more involved in Krav Maga training, they walk with poise and more confidence as their situational awareness grows, learn to avoid dangerous environments, how to defuse situations, and when everything fails; the last resort to physically defend themselves.