Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 13th 2013 Contents Dad was an alcoholic; he drank alcohol, in the latter part
(of his life) almost every day. We lived in a situation for
years, not knowing where the next meal was coming from.
We didn't know about Christmas and birthdays and Carni-
val.When it was Old Year's night and so on when we knew
he was going to drink and misbehave, my mother would
pack all our new clothes (not much) and she would take us
down to the Baptist church and we would sit in the Baptist
church all night and then when we thought our father had
fallen asleep we would come back down the road. And we
would walk - two, three o'clock in the morning, my mother
would be like Rudolph in front of us, going and all of us just
We had to develop our own way of protecting our sanity.
My resolve was the key issue of protection. My resolve was
to protect not only my immediate family...
October 13, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
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Today, this child whose instinct was
one of fierce protection is the manager
of the Victim and Witness Support Unit.
Margaret Sampson-Browne manages
this unit, which the Trinidad and Tobago
Police Service (TTPS) uses as a way to
bridge the gap between police and com-
munity in order to help victims unblock
and reach out for help.
In 1969, fresh out of high school, Margaret
started the process to enter the Police Serv-
ice. She did not know what she wanted to be;
she just knew they were poor and she
wanted a job. A year later, she completed
training and officially became a police officer
based in Southern Division. Later she would
transfer to Northern Division and also be-
come assistant commissioner of Police.
Margaret was a newbie; eager to learn,
wanting to jump aboard every exercise the
police went on. It was no surprise then that
she would be part of the first detective train-
ing course in Trinidad, and on completion, be-
came a detective.
However, life's struggles were not done
with her just yet. Very early in her career, she
became pregnant and had to challenge the
Police Service; the regulations did not allow
female police officers to have children out of
wedlock. In those days, women in this posi-
tion would either leave the police service or
hurriedly get married. Margaret did neither.
"I had to bear the brunt everyday of hav-
ing to report to my senior officers "when is
the wedding?", "when is the marriage?" It
was a social disgrace according to them for a
female police officer to be pregnant and not
It was a low point for Margaret - she could
not even receive maternity leave. She had to
apply for vacation leave instead. To add in-
sult to injury, while she was about eight
months pregnant and on leave, she was sus-
pended from duty by then Police Commis-
sioner. Her uniform was taken away and she
could not visit the police canteen or the po-
After this terrible move against Margaret,
the Police Association decided enough was
enough. The heads of the association fought
tooth and nail, even going so far as to put the
Notice on the front page of the Guardian.
From then, all hell broke loose because the
public was made aware of it. The House-
wives Association threatened to march, ca-
lypsonians sang calypsos, articles were
splashed across newspapers every day.
Margaret was reinstated.
It was a breakthrough for female police
officers across Trinidad and Tobago.
However, it seems this baby had come
just to help Margaret win this fight. A few
days after he was born, baby Jason died.
Margaret decided that this was not going to
happen to other women. She wanted
women to see that whatever challenge they
had, they could ride out of it.
Today, she is the mother of three and
grandmother of one and the advocate of vic-
tims across the country. When she speaks
about the process of helping persons go
from victim to victor, her face becomes ani-
mated and you can see the determination
shining through. It is not surprising that each
time she has to deal with a situation where a
child is involved, she takes it personally. In
fact, she takes every victim's fight personally.
Being in such a position to make a huge
difference in the fight against abuse, Mar-
garet says, "this is Christmas to me".
But she knows there is much more that
still needs to be done. She wants to catch
everybody falling through the cracks. Her vi-
sion is to create a forum for the males to
come and speak out as well, to help the Unit
understand the problem, which causes the
heavy concentration of domestic abuse that
seems to be mostly male-perpetrated. Men
need help too, she says. "We should not os-
tracize our men, we need men in the society."
She wants to reconfigure the space in the
Unit to help the victim, according to their
need. There have been times, she says, when
all a victim of abuse wants to do is sleep, be-
cause the abuse was so intense for all those
years, that what we take for granted is
something this person has not been able to
enjoy for so long.
The Unit also needs more officers to come
onboard. "When the news of a tragedy
comes across the television, I want to see
Victim and Witness Support officers right
next to the crime scene investigators...at
that crucial time, at the crux of the matter,"
Her dream is also to have a Caribbean
Safe House for both men and women.
Trinidad is too small to hide people securely
in the same country, she says. If the different
Caribbean countries can work in partnership,
we can have regional safe houses, allowing
victims and witnesses to go into hiding in an-
To victims, she says, "We are here to
bridge the gap between you and us. We are
here to support you. We respect you, we
want to embrace and empower you and to
do that, you report, we support."
Photo courtesy Margaret Sampson-Browne
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