The Mental Scars of Violence Against Women and Girls

by Sharese Benjamin

Very often when we turn on the television or check social media we hear of tragic murders of women at the hands of their partners or people who they trust. These frequent occurrences may be classified as Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Jamaicans For Justice defined GBV as ‘violence against someone based on gender-related factors or violence which disproportionately affects a particular gender – such as sexual violence. While GBV can affect anyone, it disproportionately affects women and girls.’

According to the Jamaica First National Survey on Gender-Based Violence, more than 1 in every 4 (27.8%) women has experienced intimate partner physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. Additionally, 1 in 4 women (25.2 per cent) has experienced physical violence alone at the hands of a male partner.

GBV takes place in the home in the form of rape and sexual abuse; in communities through trafficking, forced prosecution and kidnapping; and in the workplace as sexual harassment, as well as in educational institutions, health facilities or any other place.

Our focus will be on a form of GBV, known as Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G). VAW/G not only physically harms survivors but it also leaves scars that tend to last much longer – emotional and mental scars. Putting a woman’s mental health in danger is a violation of women’s rights.

According to the Health Cluster, these scars may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, self-harm and suicidal behaviour, and sleep disturbances. Let’s look closely at some of the long-term mental health effects such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Depression– is generally described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with one’s everyday life.
  • Anxiety – this is a fearful response to stress but anxiety becomes an issue when this reaction affects your daily life.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this can come as a result of the scary experience of sexual abuse, rape or kidnapping. Due to these experiences victims may feel tense, have difficulty sleeping or behave out of character.

Please note that it is not advised to determine one’s mental issues alone and that it is best to receive a diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

Other effects of VAW/G include not wanting to do the things that you usually enjoy, low self-esteem and not being able to trust others.

Survivors are encouraged to seek help from family members, friends and/or health professionals to escape their dangerous situation. Many victims are not able to reach out to those close to them because of limitations caused by their own personal situations. There are alternative means to seek help. Below are organisations that provide assistance to those who have suffered from VAW/G.


JFJ provides legal advice and representation, as well as connect victims to a network of support, including therapeutic, health and welfare services that can help meet their different needs.

2 Fagan Avenue
Kingston, Jamaica
Phone: +1(876) 615-5023-4 / +1(876) 755-4524


A non-profit organisation that assists victims of rape, incest, domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace. They operate provide counseling, shelter for abused women and have a 24-hour hotline in Kingston and one in Montego Bay between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Phone: (876) 926-9398


WROC operates a clinic and has counselling programme for women who need help dealing with various issues including abuse.

Phone: (876) 929-8873, (876) 960-9067


VSU provides free and confidential group counseling for women who have been emotionally, sexually and physically abused.

Phone Number: (876) 906-4924-31

Sharese Benjamin is a blogger and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree at the University of the West Indies. She is the General Secretary-elect of the Mona Law Society and one of the outgoing programme coordinators for the UWI Mona Guild Intergenerational Women’s Mentorship Programme. She may be contacted at