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President of the Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals, Sherna Alexander-Benjamin, yesterday said enough is enough on the issue of domestic violence in T&T. A former victim of domestic abuse, Alexander-Benjamin told the T&T Guardian via Facebook that education was the key to the prevention and reduction of domestic violence and abuse. Educating families, the victims and the general public, she said, was key.
“Many victims are fearful to come forth because of fear of the perpetrator and also fear of being judged negatively by society,” she stated in the wake of yet another case of domestic abuse which had allegedly led to a killing over the weekend.
Alexander-Benjamin, whose organisation is currently in St Vincent and the Grenadines, distributing aid to the families affected by the recent devastating floods, said domestic violence and abuse were not new social issues, but social ills which are now coming to light because of the increasing number of cases and crimes associated with domestic violence and abuse.
She added it was not an issue which legislation alone could solve, but it will take a collective effort from all groups and organisations, the Government and especially the family and the community. From late last year into early 2014, there have been three reported cases of domestic violence in which lives were ended.
The latest incident was the stabbing death of a 38-year-old man on Saturday morning in Chaguanas. The victim, identified as Shedrick Toppin, was stabbed by a relative who is alleged to have been acting in self-defence. On Boxing Day, Angel Persad, 21, of Siparia, was also shot in the chest by her uncle, PC Lutchmansingh Pooran, who then committed suicide. And in Sangre Grande on December 28, 44-year-old Steve Bain is believed to have committed suicide after trying to poison his wife.
“We need a divine intervention to stop this at whatever cost, because abuse and domestic violence has a domino-like effect; everybody in that family suffers including the children who are least able to protect themselves,” said Alexander-Benjamin. Chairman of the Child Protection Task Force and head of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Diane Mahabir-Wyatt, echoed Alexander-Benjamin’s sentiments when contacted yesterday.
“We are living in a very violent culture. People are under a lot of stress in society and many do not know how to deal with their issues,” Mahabir-Wyatt said. “We need to have educational programmes about domestic violence and abuse, conflict resolutions and anger management in our schools from the primary to secondary levels. And these programmes must be actively available to these young people.”
She noted the existing domestic violence and abuse drop-in centres in T&T were all underutilised not because people do not want to seek help, but because most of these centres operate on a one-day-a-week basis. She stressed many domestic violent incidents that end in death could be avoided if when previous reports of threats of violence or abuse are made, some form of action is taken immediately.
She said the police victim support unit, which exists under the Ministry of Justice, has actually been very good in responding to victims and remaining consistent with follow up visits, but was dreadfully under-staffed with just 28 officers.