People Against Domestic Abuse (PADA) founder Dr Kamane Soman says violence against women in Tobago is prevalent.
“It is very, very serious. I would say 65 per cent,” she told Newsday.
“Because we are told don’t speak about it. Don’t tell people your business and don’t let anybody know. But we need to be our neighbour’s keeper.”
PADA, which was established in 2016 to provide counselling, mediation and court support to victims of abuse, held a silent, candlelight vigil for murder victim Andrea Bharatt on Friday night at the I Love You Tobago gateway sign, Scarborough, Tobago.
It came hours after the 23-year-old court clerk was cremated, following an emotional funeral service at the Faith Assembly International Church, Arouca.
Women’s rights activists and parents who lost their children to violence also attended the vigil
Soman, a domestic violence survivor, said women were being abused in their homes during the covid19 pandemic.
“When the covid19 started, I said to people, ‘If you are in danger, call me and let me know and I will come.’”
Soman said she was able to get in touch with the women by pretending to assist them with filling out the grant relief forms the government had issued for displaced workers.
“I was able to go in, even when the husbands were there and get information while I was filling out this so-called grant form because they weren’t allowed to leave the home because they were being beaten.”
Soman said some men in Tobago view women as their property.
“We have this mentality that she is mine and I will put she in line.”
She added during her visits in communities, some men admit to abusing the wives or female companions.
Some women, Soman observed, are not even aware they are being abused.
“Women say, ‘He doh hit me. All he does do is talk talk, get on stupid and pelt things.’
“They don’t understand that is not the right way.”
She said people must be taught healthy methods of dealing with arguments.
Soman said female Venezuelan migrants were also being abused.
“Lately, with the Venezuelan migrants, we have a lot of domestic violence going on with them.
“They are hooking up with the locals and it has become so big now where it is that everyday, three four times for the day, we are doing counselling.”
Saying the organisation does not have a safe house, Soman said they have acquired a piece of land from one of the local businessmen.
“So, we are hoping to get donations so we can start a safe house because it is really hard that we don’t have it and when we have to remove women we have to beg business people to keep them for a night, two nights.”
Soman said Bharatt tried to do the right thing but was still killed.
“She travelled with a friend in a taxi and was still dealt the wrong hand of violence. It was unfair and my heart goes out to her family.”
Soman said Bharatt has left a strong legacy.