“Because of love, I killed her...If I didn't love her, I don't think I would feel so much pain…It's like she took an arrow and stabbed me in the heart.”—A murderer
(Quote taken from the book In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its victims, written by Prof Aaron Ben-Ze'ev and Ruhama Goussinsky)
The chopping death of 29-year-old Neisha Cyleane Sankar on September 2 served as a painful reminder to women across T&T that the DV/IPV (domestic violence or intimate partner violence) demon was far from dead. Killed by her husband Harricharran Ramsundar, who subsequently committed suicide, it was said Sankar met her death after Ramsundar found out that she wanted to leave the relationship.
Just one week after, on September 11, 20-year-old Trinidadian, Kiara Allyene, living in Florida, was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend and father of their one-year-old daughter.
T&T is not the only island suffering from this disease as on September 8, 2019, the boyfriend of former Miss Anguilla queen Taitu Goodwin allegedly stabbed her to death before burying her in a shallow grave on an Anguillan Beach. She was the daughter of former Antiguan ambassador Bruce Goodwin.
But these storylines are all too familiar as over the years and on several instances, women were murdered after they announced wanting to leave their relationship. (See sidebar)
In 2018, statistics from the TTPS's Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA) indicated that an average of 25 women was murdered every year in DV/IPV cases.
It said From January 2018 to November 2018, 22 DV/IPV related murders were recorded. While in 2017, at year's end, there was a total of 52 murders of women with 43 being DV/IP related killings.
In 2017, at year's end, there was a total of 52 murders of women with 43 being DV/IP related killings, making it 21 fewer killings for 2018. The total figure for January 2019 to the present has not yet been released. And the UN has reported, 38 per cent of women murdered were at the hands of an intimate partner.
But what is the reasoning behind the action of such perpetrators? Why does the home become a dangerous place for a woman and by extension her children, once she decides to leave the home?
'Licence to kill'
Psychiatrists Dr Varma Deyalsingh believes this stems from a patriarchal social system that gives men the impression they have the right to possess and dispose of women as property. “It is perpetrated by frustrated men who have given themselves a licence to kill,” Deyalsingh said.
He said women often stay in such relationships at times until it's too late because psychologically they cannot walk away.
“It's as if psychological chains bind them to the abuser. They can't leave even if they know they should.”
He explained that a man's act of violence tends to create a context of fear, power and control, ultimately conditioning the mind of his victim, thus achieving complete power.
“Women may be motivated by what they deem as love, and blame themselves for getting him angry and thinking it is a one-off encounter, and willing to forgive. But in the well-known cycle of violence, there is a pattern—the begging phase where he says he can't live without the person and swears to change. The honeymoon phase then comes where he treats you nice and then the buildup phase, which then escalates, back to the violence phase.”
Deyalsingh advised that the first act of violence should be immediately reported as once it isn't, the abuser believes he already has control.
Deyalsingh also shared the view that women should be allowed to leave abusive relationships in peace.
Several reasons lie beneath
Psychologist Michele Carter said there were several reasons behind a man engaging in that thought process. These include the fear of losing control and power, fear of being alone, the fear of shame and exposure that people may find out he was abusing his partner and simply the level of aggression that he has elevated to.
“We need to understand that he may have been exposed to a life in his development where a man beats a woman into submission because, again, he has to have that control,” Carter said.
Carter said the man might also be suffering from some sort of mental disorder. And there are several types of mental disorders where the person would display symptoms of violence. She noted that, unfortunately, people were not seeking proper medical care and intervention to diagnose appropriately.
“I am not saying this is an excuse for him to engage in domestic violence, but it might explain why he engages in such a level of violence and why his mindset is the way it is.”
Carter said it was imperative one becomes cognisant of all the factors that contribute to the mind of the perpetrator, where his thought processes were being influenced in such a way that he believes that the only way he can release his wife or girlfriend is by killing her and he escalates to this point of violence. The perpetrator may also turn on themselves as they feel a sense of hopelessness because the relationship has come to an end.
“We need to know what is happening with our men as they develop. And I am speaking here about young boys from the moment they begin to grow and develop. We need to help them understand they are to respect, love and care for women. We also have to teach them how to let go of individuals, and that people are not things or possessions,” Carter said.
She said care must also be taken to understand what they are exposed to in their young years, like violence in the home, violence against women conveyed through music and other forms of digital media, as all these things can influence the mindset of the man.
Women facing a series of hurdles
Victims of domestic violence face a series of hurdles, which converge to severely impede their ability to exit toxic and violent relationships. And these hurdles range from harmful socio-cultural norms, legislation deficits, failure to implement legislation, inconsistent and appropriate police responses, inefficient justices system, inadequate social services and a failure to develop effective community responses, according to Coalition Against Domestic Violence's (CADV) general manager, Sabrina Mowlah-Baksh.
She said the acts of normalising violence and victim shaming and blaming places an indefensible burden of responsibility on victims whilst the perpetrators are not held to account for their actions.
“The State is saddled with the responsibility of protecting all of its citizens. This responsibility makes it compulsory for the necessary provisions within the national budget to address the problem of domestic violence given the astounding figures, which end in tragic circumstances. Figures which remain consistent annually and which are erroneously described as crimes of passion,” Mowlah-Baksh said.
She made 10 recommendations:
1. There has to be provisions made for and widen the scope of subventions to NGOs that provide direct and
indirect support to victims and perpetrators especially shelters.
2. Make allocations to programmes that were halted such as the reintroduction of the court-mandated
batterer intervention programme.
3. Re-introduction of the Community Police.
4. Expand and provide additional resources to the Victims and Witness Support Unit.
5. Make allocations for equipping police stations with specialised spaces to deal with victims.
6. Make provisions for the introduction of family violence education and gender into the curriculum as early
as childhood education.
7. Do what is necessary financially to sort out the justice system.
8. Ensure that the police are always equipped with the necessary tools to respond to cases of domestic
violence. Many times there are no vehicles to take victims to safe houses.
9. Introduce a programme specific to victims of domestic violence where they can access emergency
funds to exit violent and life-threatening situations. This can be managed by an NGO.
10. Provide funding for the establishment of a specialised unit within the police service on gender-based violence.
Some women killed in 2018
Some of the women killed by their partners (2018)
1) Drupatee Sankar (Hands severed; Alive but critical; 2018, Jan 1)
2) Arisa Vana David (Strangled; 2018, Jan 2)
3) Vanessa Ali aka Inga Scheult (Shot; 2018, Jan 4)
4)*Unidentified* (Mutilated and burnt; 2018, Jan 6)
5) Sarah Joseph (Missing, Jan. 20; Shot, body wrapped in a sheet, dumped; 2018, Jan 23)
6) Kayla Marie Solomon-Caine, 24 (Bludgeoned to death, Feb 02, 2018, Lambeau, Tobago)
* 1 in 3 women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, most frequently by an intimate partner.
* Only 52 per cent of women married or in a union freely make their decisions about sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care.
* Worldwide, almost 750 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday; while 200 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
* 1 in 2 women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family in 2012; while only 1 out of 20 men were killed under similar circumstances.
* 71 per cent of all human trafficking victims worldwide are women and girls, and 3 out of 4 of these women and girls are sexually exploited.