Health Secretary Dr Agatha Carrington is calling on Tobagonians to speak out and report acts of domestic violence and child abuse.
“I really want the people of Tobago to recognise that domestic violence and child abuse destroys children, it destroys families and as a result it destroys communities. Yet, there are many persons who remain silent, afraid of the consequences of revealing the truth or believing that they themselves cause the violence.
“We want people to be brave enough to step forward and report these violent encounters. We are committed to assist victims and families who need support,” Carrington said.
She was addressing women gathered at the Milford Road Esplanade in Scarborough on Friday following an annual walkathon hosted by the Tobago Regional Mother’s Union of the Anglican Church, this year focused on raising awareness on gender-based violence and child abuse.
Carrington, noting statistics relating to domestic violence and child abuse “continue to be alarming” as “yet another year we are here, raising awareness and empowering women, children and persons in our community to take action against domestic violence and child abuse.”
“Today, I challenge each Tobagonian to work unceasingly, not only to protect and improve each other’s lives but to also engage children in conversations about gender equality and respectful relationships. We do have a responsibility in our child rearing practices to socialise our children to treat each other as equals with dignity and respect,” she said.
Carrington did not give any details on statistics in Tobago on domestic violence and child abuse.
Also speaking at the event was Cheryl Douglas, a Women Empowerment Coach based in the UK, and founder of Femmessence & It’s Your Time to Shine Women’s Events, who argued that perpetrators of domestic and child abuse were as much victims as the persons they committed acts of violence against.
“We often hear the term victims and perpetrators but as far as I am concerned, they are all victims. As difficult as it might seem to believe and as easy as is to come down on and feel very negative and perhaps hateful… despite what the so-called perpetrator may display, despite the bravado, despite the strength and the arrogance and everything else, nobody who feels deeply worthy in themselves, nobody who feels deeply confident and loving in themselves, nobody who honours, respects themselves, treat another human being in a negative and cruel way and that’s why I say they are all victims,” said Douglas.
Douglas’ point was elaborated on by Sherla McKenzie, Manager of the Women’s Economic and Technological and Empowerment Centre of the Division of Health, who described domestic violence as a family crisis.
“It isn’t just about victims and perpetrators, we have generation and intergenerational abuse that will lead to bullying in schools, more violence in the streets, in the workplace.
“Even when we look at the violence in the schools and we see boys and girls kicking the chairs at one another, you want to ask yourself where does violence start, where did it come from?
“It starts from conception, when a child is conceived, if the environment is a violent one, even before the child is born, the violence is a part of that forming,” she suggested.
McKenzie said domestic violence must be dealt with not only when it has already happened, but even before it starts.
“We have to look at it from the sociological perspective, the groups in the society that are most likely affected by violence and to separate them - the men, the women, the children and the elderly. For as long as we remember, domestic violence was there and for as far as we can see into the future, domestic violence will be there…,” she said, adding that it was time to “change our thinking about what we can do differently.”