Last week will go down as not only one of the worst weeks of tragedy that this country has seen in a long time but also one of the worst involving the deaths of women.
No sooner than national security personnel, including Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, had concluded a media conference last Monday on measures to deal with crime, came another terrible wave of killings in which four women lost their lives in consecutive days.
While we accept that crimes of passion are often difficult to predict, what we heard this week after the murder of Ellen Trishana Mohammed in Guayaguayare, pointed to a need to deal with irresponsible behaviour within the Police Service
Police have disputed the claims made by family members that they called for assistance six times without a response in the weeks leading up to her death. Public Information Officer ASP Sheridon Hill said two reports were lodged at the Mayaro Police Station and on both occasions, the police responded.
That may very well be so, but the family’s claims only prompted more women to come forward with personal experiences of how they were treated when seeking help against abusers.
On one occasion, police mockingly asked a woman, “What you coming to report the man for?” going on to tell her she “don’t come when things are sweet,” in reference to her sexual life.
Not only was this a most abhorrent way to treat a victim but it was downright stupid. Since when does anyone go to a police station to report that things are “sweet” between them and their partner?
Another woman said an officer’s response when she went to report abuse, was “What do you expect if you looking so?”
A third woman, after filing a report and returning to her home, found herself subject to a phone call from a male officer, who, having got her number through her statement, wanted her to know how attracted he was to her and was interested in taking her out on a date. The woman, quite rightly, reminded the officer her reason going to the station was to seek protection and not his companionship.
These are just a few of the myriad of disgusting experiences female victims have had with the Police Service.
If, therefore, national security arms hope to get a grip on the wave of domestic violence that has been flooding us lately, this is one of the first places to begin.
The Professional Standards Bureau and Police Complaints Authority must broaden the channels through which women who have been disregarded or mistreated when seeking help can file complaints against the police. Officers like those mentioned above should have no place whatsoever in an organisation that bears the motto, ‘To protect and serve’.
There is work ahead for the TTPS executive, since they too are responsible for identifying and eliminating the objectification, sexism and neglect women face from time to time.
The response must also include revisiting legislative measures against those who breach protection orders, including against women who allow men into their space while protection orders stand.
These measures, we know, will not suddenly end all domestic violence deaths but are most certainly gaps that must be plugged if we hope to save more lives.