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