Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: We need system for couples in challenging relationships; Letters on DV in T&T

Dear Editor: We need system for couples in challenging relationships; Letters on DV in T&T

“How casually the matter is reported, right alongside the business news. What amazes me is the fact that we have become so desensitised as a people that a woman can lose her life today and it is business as usual tomorrow.”

The following letter, written by Roslyn Williams-George, is the fifth and last in a series of missives from the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, meant to raise awareness about the problem of violence against women and girls in Trinidad and Tobago:

Photo: Victim of domestic abuse often live behind a wall of silence.

Permit me to express my views on the alarming rate of deaths of women on this country due to domestic violence.

How casually the matter is reported, right alongside the business news. What amazes me is the fact that we have become so desensitised as a people that a woman can lose her life today and it is business as usual tomorrow.

Have we stopped to consider the effects of the impact on the children and the community when a woman is murdered in the most gruesome of ways; and the perpetrator has the luxury of sitting in prison at taxpayers’ expense?

Some of these matters can go for years and years without justice.

What systems are in place to assist couples that are having a difficult time? There is AA for recovering alcoholics, and rehab for the drug addict; one would think by now there would be a system in place to provide assistance to men and women who may be facing serious challenges in relationships.

And please don’t tell me about a restraining order because all that does is to provoke the situation even further.

Does anyone see this as a crisis?

Photo: St Francis RC primary school teacher Margaret Guevara was shot dead on 27 February 2018. She was 42.

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  1. Dear Editor,
    Re: Violence against women in the workplace
    The brutal beating or murder of a woman by her husband or intimate partner will invoke anger, outrage and perhaps protest. A black eye, bruises on the body, a broken nose or finger are often telltale signs of intimate partner violence (IPV).
    The physical signs of IPV are often easy to identify but it is the psychological violence that is less easy to notice and less talked about. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact of emotional trauma, not just on the psyche but to physical and mental health. As Dr. Catherine Ali theorizes in her missive from the Coalition against Domestic Violence, social conditioning has played a key role in normalizing violence.
    Religion, especially those that promote a narrow interpretation of scriptures, advocate the supremacy of men over women and within that context make women less than. Biblical misinterpretations of a man’s right to lord it over his wife for example, feed into cultural practices of male headship and colonial antecedents of male dominance. Together these serve to entrench and normalize the ill-treatment of women.
    Our social constructs have informed over decades, that men must contain or control their women as a sign or evidence of their masculinity. This conditioning is systemic across race, class and ethnicity – as well as gender. It is rooted so deep within our sub-consciousness that the lines of what is acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour is often blurred.
    Both women and men are confused as to what is permissible and the features and range of violence is so extensive, that the victims are often unsure of when to seek intervention.
    Violence against women transcends the domestic or intimate settings however. Violence and particularly psychological violence is common in the workplace – including the board rooms and executive suites. Psychological violence is prevalent in the church, in academia and in politics.
    The experience of many women in corporate life, not just in the Caribbean, is governed by fear. Too often, women are afraid to speak in a board room setting for fear of being put down in front of male peers; fear of giving an opinion so as not to appear smarter than their peers or CEO. Being smarter, more confident, more knowledgeable, more qualified, more efficient, more capable, can cost a woman a promotion or special assignment. Senior level females often endure disrespect, isolation, denial of deserved roles, or ultimately being forced out of organizations through manipulated performance appraisals, contrived capability issues or more often, under the guise of restructuring. What’s more, in small communities such as ours in the Caribbean, a forced exit can mean prolonged unemployment because of the ‘old boys’ network’.
    Like her sisters who work at home and see no way out, silence has become the watchword working women. Specifically for senior level females, there are few women at the top to confide in and few male ‘sponsors’ to provide a reliable shield. Too often they are stigmatized by other women in the organisation for making it to the C-Suite and will often endure ridicule, sabotage and marginalization even from female colleagues. This again is symptomatic of plantocracy conditioning and acculturation.
    Workplace bullying in the Caribbean has undertones of plantation ideologies and attitudes. While there is no physical whipping, there is the shouting, the badgering, the threats and punishments for “non-compliance” with the unspoken rules – rules that are meant to keep badly behaved men in leadership roles. This is real not just for women but also for men. The verbally whipped and psychological male in turn, perpetuates those behaviours at home; and many women, including professional women, suffer silently – simply because it is the norm.
    Women in retail or administrative roles are subject to sexist remarks, young women in the food industry or domestic work to sexual exploitation and with the recent influx of immigrants and vulnerable refugees in T&T, this is sadly becoming a feature of our society.
    Being viciously beaten and broken by a wheel spanner like the teenage Venezuelan immigrant on October 30th this year or strangled like Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya on Carnival Tuesday in 2016, or burnt alive like outspoken journalist Marcia Henville in 2015 are all heinous crimes and symptomatic of societal degeneration and the normalization of violence. So too, is the death by a thousand cuts in the verbal abuse that many women endure daily. So too, is the hidden crime of psychological violence in our Caribbean boardrooms. Beyond an empathetic ear, the opportunities for release and relief are nominal or nonexistent.
    We must be thankful for changes in the legal framework and heightened awareness of the issue of domestic violence; but in terms of recalibrating centuries of psychological conditioning, there’s quite a lot of work to be done.


  2. Lasana, thank you and wired868 for publishing and helping us to get these views out there. ❤️❤️❤️