Survivor to police: Be more sensitive to victims

A 55-year-old do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sur­vivor on Monday re­count­ed her life of ter­ror as she called for po­lice of­fi­cers to be bet­ter trained and have more sen­si­tiv­i­ty when deal­ing with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tims and cas­es.

The St Vin­cent­ian na­tion­al, who has been liv­ing in T&T for the past 37 years, knows all too well about how dan­ger­ous and dead­ly do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can be.

Two years ago, her daugh­ter was killed be­cause of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The sur­vivor, a moth­er of nine, spoke at a pub­lic di­a­logue on the is­sue host­ed by the Em­bassy of Spain, the Eu­ro­pean Union and Coali­tion Against Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence, which was held at the Old Fire Sta­tion build­ing in Port-of-Spain.

EU of­fi­cials re­quest­ed that the woman’s name and pho­to be with­held as a mea­sure to pro­tect her.

She told the gath­er­ing that she was tricked in­to com­ing to this coun­try 37 years ago to ex­pe­ri­ence Car­ni­val.

In­stead, when the woman ar­rived she was placed in a wood­en shack and locked up for decades against her will. She was un­able to have friends or any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any­one else.

She said she was abused and bad­ly beat­en “with any­thing he could have got­ten his hand on.”

The sur­vivor said she made an at­tempt to flee to Cana­da via St Vin­cent but was forced to re­turn since she could not bear the thought of her chil­dren be­ing left be­hind in Trinidad.

How­ev­er, she is to­day thank­ing God for re­turn­ing as she en­sured that her chil­dren got their ed­u­ca­tion up to the uni­ver­si­ty lev­el.

“I have noth­ing to give them but I saw it best to sac­ri­fice my life to come back to them and to en­sure that they stud­ied and get their ed­u­ca­tion...my last son is cur­rent­ly in the Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies study­ing busi­ness. Two oth­ers are bank man­agers and my grand­son, whose moth­er was killed, said he wants to be a doc­tor and I will en­sure that this hap­pens,” she said.

But, the sur­vivor said that she got her wake up call and strength to leave the abu­sive re­la­tion­ship when her daugh­ter was killed while re­turn­ing to her home in Care­nage two years ago.

“She was killed just five hous­es away from where we lived and when that hap­pened it was the day I de­cid­ed to leave be­cause I said to my­self I could be like this and my chil­dren are all big now and I can walk away...it was easy for me to do, sur­pris­ing­ly,” the sur­vivor said.

Speak­ing with Guardian Me­dia af­ter the pub­lic fo­rum, the woman said that hours be­fore her daugh­ter was bru­tal­ly mur­dered she called the po­lice for help and got none, “they laughed and brushed it off and said that the man in ques­tion left the home al­ready, de­spite that I told them that he at­tacked me too and had put a knife against my throat, and that it did not make sense for them to come. The po­lice had promised to find him af­ter but it turned out that they nev­er did.”

She added: “The po­lice of­fi­cers need sen­si­ti­sa­tion and train­ing in han­dling do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cas­es...yes it’s a pri­vate thing but ac­tion needs to be tak­en and per­pe­tra­tors need to be ar­rest­ed and held ac­count­able and vic­tims need to be pro­tect­ed and have that op­por­tu­ni­ty to feel safe. I, my­self, got no help from the po­lice be­cause they would just treat my re­ports like noth­ing.”

But she does not on­ly have ad­vice for the po­lice. The sur­vivor al­so en­cour­aged vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to muster up the strength and get help.

“There are places and or­gan­i­sa­tions now that you can go to now for help...in my time I did not have that op­por­tu­ni­ty...so do it and get out...save your­self and save your chil­dren, if there are chil­dren.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­lease is­sued by the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter (Gen­der and Child Af­fairs), on De­cem­ber 20, 2017, more than 1,000 of­fi­cers in the Po­lice Ser­vice were trained us­ing the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence In­ves­tiga­tive and Pro­ce­dur­al Man­u­al for po­lice of­fi­cers.

The man­u­al was de­vel­oped fol­low­ing the re­port of a work­ing com­mit­tee ap­point­ed in the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al in 2007 to ad­dress this is­sue. It al­so con­firmed the es­tab­lish­ment of a ded­i­cat­ed Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Unit.

If you are or know any­one who may be a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, con­tact the Na­tion­al Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Hot­line at 800-SAVE (7283).

Reporter: Rhondor Dowlat

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