New UB Research Sheds New Light on Sexual Abuse of Women


Amid the ongoing national and global debate on the sexual and psychological abuse of women in intimate relationships with men, a team of University of The Bahamas (UB) researchers has undertaken a study that sheds light on the occurrence of “marital rape” and its impact on women in The Bahamas.

For several months, Associate Professor Dr. Niambi Hall Campbell-Dean, along with UB colleagues Mr. William Fielding and Ms. Virginia C. Ballance, have been studying how men in heterosexual relationships treat their intimate partners. They have been specifically focusing on the association between sexual and psychological abuse. The fruits of their labour have resulted in a peer-reviewed research paper entitled, “In The Bahamas ‘She must give it up’: Sexual Abuse of Women in Heterosexual Relationships by their Intimate Partners”. The study offers key insights into this sensitive and prevalent issue that has dominated news headlines and public discourse for the past decade.

The research study is based on data collected from 464 married and 1,264 single women in intimate relationships with men. Married women were found to be more likely than single women to have experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse. Moreover, married women who disclosed being victims of non-consensual sexual intercourse with their husbands were also more likely to have suffered physical harm at the hands of their partners compared to those who had not experienced such abuse. The data also highlighted a higher incidence of psychological abuse among married women in comparison to unmarried women.

In essence, the results pointed to concerning behaviours perpetrated by men against their female intimate partners, both in and outside of marriage.

Mr. Fielding emphasized the significance of the study.

“This research is pivotal in furthering our understanding of gender-based violence and provides critical insight to inform discussions on the occurrence of so-called ‘marital rape’ and its profound effects on women,” he said.

Ms. Ballance added that this data is useful for strategies to address the plight of women who are sexually abused.

“It is too easy to view rape or non-consensual sexual intercourse as being short-term events without appreciating the long-term detrimental consequences on the psychological health of survivors. Obtaining an estimate as to the number of women who are abused through unwanted sexual intercourse, particularly married women, highlights the need to ensure that all women are equally protected by the law, irrespective of theirmmarital status,” said Ms. Ballance. Mr. Fielding and Ms. Ballance collaborated previously on a study in 2022 titled “A Preliminary Study on Unwanted Sexual Intercourse Within Long-term Relationships in The Bahamas”.

UB was also a key organizer and host site for a recently held round of consultations on the proposed Bill to Amend the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act of 1991, whichmwould establish marital rape as a crime. Similar to their 2022 research, the latest study is essential in guiding future conversations about sexual abuse, marital rape, and gender-based violence and supporting the recommendations for research in the 2015 “Strategic Plan to Address Gender-Based Violence” in The Bahamas.

Dr. Campbell-Dean expressed hope that the new study would encourage meaningful dialogue on sexual abuse in The Bahamas, particularly among policymakers who may have previously hesitated to engage in the conversation. The research offers valuable data and insights to inform and support their decisions and actions.

The research is set to be published in the upcoming 29th volume of the International Journal of Bahamian Studies (IJBS) in October 2023. The IJBS, a scholarly peer-reviewed research journal published by UB, features original research on The Bahamas or with significant Bahamian content as well as research of regional or comparative interest.

From: Bahamas Information Services