Just two weeks shy of its first anniversary, the head of the Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU) of the T&T Police Service (TTPS) says there was an almost 300 per cent increase in the number of reported domestic violence incidents last year.
However, acting Superintendent Claire Guy-Alleyne said most survivors do not get past the reporting stage - preferring instead to have police verbally warn their abusers.
In an interview with Guardian Media ahead of the unit’s first anniversary on January 26, Guy-Alleyne said her investigators cannot move forward with charges if survivors refuse to cooperate. She urged survivors to hold all abusers accountable for their actions.
“Sometimes you have victims who will say, ‘I am just making a report for making a report sake or I am making a report so as to have something recorded at a station’.
That should desist, we are in 2021, and I am asking victims to cooperate more with investigators so we can have the perpetrators taken before a court of law,” she said.
Guy-Alleyne said in 2019 the TTPS got 959 reports of domestic violence. That number almost tripled in 2020, with 2,622 reports being made. But Guy-Alleyne said from those reports, only 284 abusers were arrested. She said there were 368 offences arising from that number.
She said when more abusers are arrested and charged, it may serve as a deterrent for other abusers.
“Perpetrators will now understand that they are now being held accountable for their actions,” she said.
But even if survivors do not want charges laid against their abusers, Guy-Alleyne said they are offered counselling to assist them in gaining the confidence to pursue justice for themselves.
She said since its formation, one officer from the unit has been assigned to each of the country’s nine police divisions. And while all domestic violence cases are referred to her unit, Guy-Alleyne said any police can intervene to stop the abuse.
“If it’s an emergency situation and the GBVU is not available at the time, the police at any station can respond because all police officers notwithstanding whatever division we are working, we know our duties. So they would respond, ensure the victim is safe and if the perpetrator is behaving in a violent manner, he would be arrested and we would be informed.”
She said there was also a need for more familial support for survivors as they will often ‘downplay’ the extent of their abuse when making a report to protect their abusers.
“I have told my investigators to start requesting that a relative be present during interviews if they are willing to come because too often the survivors will tell police ‘He didn’t mean to do it,’ or ‘It was my fault, he is a good person.’ I want to say here today, no one who loves you is going to abuse you. That is not love. Nothing you do could make someone who loves you abuse you.”
She said the GBVU also offers support to abusers who are seeking to change their behaviours.
She urged anyone with abusive tendencies to know their triggers and walk away if they feel themselves getting angry.
“We all have a choice to walk away from the situation. If you know when you drink alcohol, it triggers you to be violent, seek help, go to Alcoholics Anonymous and you can also come to the GBVU and we will guide you and advise you.”
If you or someone you know is being abused, you can contact the TTPS at 999, 555, through online reporting or by using the TTPS App.