Anna-Lisa Paul and Bobie-Lee Dixon
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Head of the Victims and Witness Support Unit of the Police Service Margaret Sampson-Browne yesterday told a harrowing story of a young housewife and mother who was subjected to such extreme domestic violence by her husband, that she even had to ask him permission leave to the bathroom. The woman, who lived in south Trinidad, was recently rescued by the police, she said.
Sampson-Brown was speaking at the launch of a programme titled Integrating Gender-based Violence Services with Sexual and Reproductive Health Services for Young People, at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain. The former assistant commissioner said somehow, the police found the woman and “literally rescued her through the back door.”
“The victim in this case...she was experiencing a severe domestic violence situation. So severe that she has to even ask permission to come from the bathroom of her house to come into the living room,” Sampson-Browne told the forum. “She is in prison because she cannot even speak to her loved ones or her friends. If she speaks it is when the perpetrator is out of hearing or sight and she has to delete the number on the phone because when he comes back he will check it.”
“After years and years of abuse we were able to remove that woman from the home...we had to actually pass her through a back door.” In response to the woman’s actions, the perpetrator went to the magistrate’s court and applied for access to his children. The woman, who is in her 30s and who Browne said “has been married for a long time,” is now in a safe house. She added, however, that the perpetrator had the intention of getting back at the woman.
“And we know that all he wants is to draw her out in the open, because it is the first time in his life that he is losing control and she is saying to him, ‘I have had enough.’ “She was so scared that she can’t even come to the court to apply for a protection order. We applied for a protection order on her behalf. So when he believes she is coming to court to get access, she is coming to court to tell the magistrate she does not want him in her life,” Sampson-Browne added.
She said it was only because there were dedicated people working with the victim that she could now enjoy sleep. To save lives, Sampson-Browne said, sometimes required out-of-the box thinking, even on the part of the police. “Women and children are dying at the hands of perpetrators who purport to love them,” she said.
She said so far this year, nine women had lost their lives to domestic violence. She said last year, 2,013 victims of domestic violence sought the help of the unit, while 200 victims had already sought their support so far this year. Sampson-Browne said the unit was now preparing to go on an education drive to get the public on board.
Also speaking at the forum, Roger McLean, first vice-president of the Family Planning Association (FPA), said one in three women in T&T suffered some form of domestic abuse, including being beaten and coerced into sex.