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Lawyer at launch of advisory clinic: Abuse of women at brutal level
Almost half of the women who were murdered last year in T&T were victims of domestic violence. This was disclosed by family attorney Lynette Seebaran-Suite yesterday as she launched the Domestic Violence Advisory Clinic at the office of the T&T Group of Professionals Association, Fitz Blackman Drive, Port-of-Spain. The clinic was launched as part of 16 days of activism in commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which was celebrated on November 25. Seebaran-Suite said police records showed 33 women were murdered and 16 of the killings were related to domestic violence.
Addressing representatives of various Government and non-governmental organisations, she said domestic violence against women had moved to a new brutal level. She said sometimes twice a month one heard on the news that a woman was killed through domestic violence. Seebaran-Suite believes this goes back to gender issues but also feels it is related to “gaps” in the responses to domestic violence. She recalled that the “first generation” response to the issue centered around bringing it out of the bedroom and into the public domain.
The “second generation” response was the creation of legislation, like the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Act, and the formation of several groups and a hotline to deal with reports. The “third generation” response deals with having a proper follow-up programme with victims after they have reported the matter to the police and taken restraining action against the perpetrator. Seebaran-Suite said existing systems needed to be strengthened.
Head of the Police Service’s Domestic Violence Unit, Margaret Sampson-Brown, who also addressed the gathering, said she had requested 15 additional officers. Sampson-Brown said when the unit was first formed in 2008, they had 20 officers who responded to every report of domestic violence. She said nine of the officers eventually left but they were able to bring back their numbers to 20. The unit has interviewed an additional 15 officers who were just waiting on approval to be appointed, she said.
Sampson-Brown disclosed that they were working, at present, in the remote east Trinidad community of Matelot. She said of all the incest reports the police received, Matelot had the highest. She said there were 17-year-old mothers in the area. She said the unit recently walked house-to-house in the community trying to dialogue with residents and was able to establish a wonderful relationship with them. Poverty and some level of illiteracy were identified as problems and she said the unit was seeking to bring a library to the area to encourage reading.
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