Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 17th 2016 Contents | FEMINISM AND GENDER |
By Paula Lindo
OVER 60% OF WOMEN MURDERED in T&T are killed by
their intimate partners. These alarming statistics are for the
10 year period 2004 to 2013 and come from the TTPS Crime
and Problem Analysis Unit. There were 382 women mur-
dered over the period, of which 259 were from domestic vio-
lence, and 20 of these cases happened in Tobago.
Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission, Lynette
Seebaran-Suite, said generally murders occur when the vic-
tim is trying to leave the relationship. "You might be suffering
from a chronic situation of abuse, controlling behaviour, psy-
chological abuse, deprivation of resources, beating, etc., but
when you try to leave, that is when you are at most danger
of being killed. Therefore victims have to plan carefully for ex-
iting, and there are some jurisdictions, for example, Switzer-
land, where the state will go so far as to relocate you to
another city, in another part of the country."
She said there needs to be intervention with victims to raise
awareness that they are going through domestic abuse.
"Sometimes they gain that insight only after they have es-
caped and realize they have been battered all these years
and didn't acknowledge it. So if there are outreaches to
women to enable them to recognize the signs of their being
abused, that will help."
Seebaran-Suite said it would also help if victims learn or are
taught techniques of avoiding making situations worse. She
gave the example of journalist Marcia Henville, who was
murdered, allegedly by her husband, in her home in January
2014, in the early hours of the morning after a quarrel. "There
is a certain sense and a certain wisdom in not escalating a
problem when you are isolated and help is not at hand. So it
may very well be that you have to bide your time and pour oil
on troubled waters and de-escalate a quarrel in the middle of
The EOC Chairman said victims who want to leave abusive
situations have to make an exit plan. "You have to have your
documents of record and your car keys available, and have
people knowing what you're planning to do rather than leave
yourself vulnerable to being trapped and cornered." She also
said many murders take place when women are lured back
into the relationship with promises of change of behaviour or
expressions of love and affection, after having left for six
months or a year.
"So women have to accept responsibility for their own safety
and they have to be given tools, like public education pro-
grams which educate women to practical methods of secur-
ing their own personal safety, such as knowing when not to
escalate, making sure you have your avenues of escape avail-
able, and not going back and when you do escape. Some-
times you have to accept the reality that you may actually
have to leave the country, because a very famous saying of
my husband is 'dead women have no rights'. So when you're
standing up on your rights, the man doesn't care about your
Cases of this type may have been brought to the attention
of the authorities before they became fatal, whether as po-
lice matters or domestic violence matters in the magistrates'
court. Seebaran-Suite said domestic cases that are handled
by the police are usually cases of assault by beating or
threats, and there were over 15,000 reports between 2004
and 2013. However, a far greater number of domestic vio-
lence cases go to the magistrates' court, where applications
are made for Protection Orders (POs). These applications are
brought under the Domestic Violence Act and are filed by
both men and women.
Since 2008, there have consistently been in excess of 11,000
applications per year for POs in the 13 magisterial districts in
T&T. In 2008 -- 2009, there were 11,620 applications; in 2009
-- 2010 there were 12,100; in 2010 -- 2011 there were 11,984
and in 2012 -- 2013 there were 11,382 applications. Seebaran-
Suite said in a given law term year, which runs from Septem-
ber to August, not all these matters might be disposed of
and may carry over into the following year.
Disposal of a matter may mean that it is either dismissed,
withdrawn or completed. It can be dismissed because the
parties or the complainant didn't turn up, or withdrawn by
the complainant who does not wish to pursue it further. The
case may also be determined by the consent of the parties
or be tried and determined by the magistrate.
Seebaran-Suite said not all PO applications involve allega-
tions of physical violence, but allegations of other types of
abuse can be made, including threatening behaviour, stalking,
deprivation of property, aggression, psychological violence,
applications for exclusive occupation of the home and/or to
put somebody out of the home.
The different causes for applications show that not all do-
mestic abuse is physical, but women who realize this should
not assume that if they are trying to leave the relationship,
they will be safe because "the man never raise a hand to
them yet." This might be the time it happens, so have a con-
tingency plan in place.
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