“THE Protection Order (PO) and the Domestic Violence Act has teeth. It can be a very powerful tool in giving the abused, survivors, a foot in to take back some control over their lives.”
This was just one of the impassioned messages shared on Emancipation Day by former acting police commissioner, head of the Victims and Witness Support Unit and human-rights advocate Margaret Sampson-Browne.
She was speaking at the Vistabella Community Centre, Manjack Trace, Vistabella, during a seminar on the topic as it relates to the Christian community.
The event, themed “Abuse of Women in the Christian Community: Emancipate yourself,” was hosted by Mother Shirley Marcelle of the St Peter’s Spiritual Baptist Church, corner Pond and Lambie Street, Vistabella.
40 WOMEN KILLED
Despite at least 40 women being killed since the start of the year, at the hands of their partners, Sampson-Brown spoke in detail about the advantages of protection orders (POs). She noted that perpetrators can be arrested on sight for breaching or violation of POs, that it can be served at the perpetrators residence even in his or her absence.
She explained further that by law, unlike other civil matters, a victim has only to wait seven working days to get a court hearing after the application for a PO is made at the office of a Justice of the Peace. However, she also highlighted some errors often made by the victim/survivor that can hinder a PO from being processed and enforced.
Sampson-Browne, who walked the gathering through the process, said the document is done in duplicate, with a section for the victim’s statement and an attachment titled an Affidavit of Return.
“Too often victims keep that part that ought to be served to the police, to be served to the perpetrator, and it frustrates the entire process. Then in the courts, it comes up that the perpetrator was not served because the police didn’t have that necessary piece of documentation,” she explained.
An impassioned Sampson-Browne told victims to make copies of their POs and distribute them to every police station in the districts that their perpetrator is known to frequent. “Let the police know who they are looking for. Remember, they may not have a likeness of what the perpetrator looks like,” she added.
MEN BEING ABUSED TOO
Sampson-Browne, who recalled the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act 1991, said the empirical data then showed 95 per cent of victims were women, but that it is “very real” that men are being abused also. On domestic violence and the Christian community, she called for women to be their sisters’ and brothers’ keepers.
Sampson-Browne said contrary to belief, domestic violence happens within the church and victims often sit in the congregations and suffer in silence. “If you see signs, realise she didn’t come to church for a while...ask a question..reach out to her. We have to help each other emancipate ourselves from abuse. We have to support victims and survivors,” she said.
Also sharing this sentiment was social worker Theresa Brown-Alves, who added that some victims do not even know they are being abused. She noted particularly that financial, emotional and psychological abuse often go unaddressed in relationships, whether spousal or otherwise.
Brown-Alves listed the types of abuse and gave situations where it was identifiable. “These kinds of events are needed to sensitise victims, women, to the different types of abuse and if you identify that you are in fact being abused, then help is available. Don’t continue to being wounded and have your abuse turn to fatalities,” she pleaded passionately.
Brown-Alves, who also advocated for accessing counselling, added that a stronger network of support is needed from the start of a report to the victim being equipped to function socially. She also stressed the need to address how abuse affects the children who witness and suffer domestic violence.
“We need to see that the abuse does not continue to just be limited to the victim and perpetrator, but the children, even when they are not in fact physically abused, are left with longstanding adverse effects,” she said.
Nester Flanders-Skeete, survivor and founder of Domestic Violence Survivors Reaching Out (DVSRO), listed the different agencies from which victims could seek assistance.
“Please don’t do like me and suffer in silence. It can affect your health years later. All my health conditions now are a direct result of either blows or stress related from my period living with domestic violence and severe abuse,” she said.
Three women shared their testimonies, which brought murmurs and tears from listeners. Despite this they all shared one thing in common, their declaration of faith and belief in God’s protection.
Evangelist Stacey-Ann Beckles noted that often when she is introduced, it is with accolades, but her life in prison for trafficking drugs and her years of abuse are left out. She spoke confidently on both, and credited her ability to change to her belief in God.
Ambica Dass drew tears when she spoke of losing her three-year-old son Rishi, during a domestic attack which left her near death. Dass’ estranged husband, a known alcoholic, had forced himself into her mother’s home, chopping their infant son to death and gravely injuring her.
“They had pronounced me dead in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. I had chops all over, I lost half of my left hand, my right heel and even the doctors had given up on me. My sister flew in from the US to attend my funeral, but God decided He wasn’t ready for me to die,” she said.
Her attacker then took his own life. Cheryly Ann Gadajahar, prolific inspirational and non-fiction author, shared her experience of being sexually molested from the age of six, living in a children’s home for ten years and the internal turmoil she suffered during that time.
She is the author of 15 books, five of which have been published, including Girl in the Cupboard and its sequel, Mom, is that You?..The Open Cupboard. Gadajahar also recently wrote an education guide and parenting manual, Safety Tips: What Young Children Need to Know about their Personal Safety.
“Parents, listen and love your children or they will look for it elsewhere, it’s what I did for years until I truly held on to God and the faith that I only needed His love.” she said. Bishop Leon John, MC for the event, called for more men to attend similar events.
Those present were also urged to browse the stalls offering educational brochures on domestic violence and a variety of health conditions; medicinal plants; and African and Spiritual Baptist clothing and accessories.