John Lennon, the Beatle, in 1965, wrote these haunting lyrics: “You better run for your life if you can, little girl / Hide your head in the sand, little girl / Catch you with another man / That’s the end, little girl / Well, you know that I’m a wicked guy / And I was born with a jealous mind / And I can’t spend my whole life / Trying just to make you toe the line”.
Imagine he, of all persons, could conceive of a song like this. The peace and love man! To his credit, he later said this was the one song he regretted writing.
The lyrics are appropriate in the light of the murder of Neisha Sankar, which follows that of Leisha Ramnath of Penal a mere six months ago—both at the hands of their husbands. We could speculate about what they could and should have done, but what should the men in our society do and should have done?
When will the promised Domestic Violence Unit of the TTPS come into being? What are the 1,000 police officers trained to handle these cases doing and where are they stationed? As my mother would say, that is pure gambage! A big grandcharge here and there but no substance.
Murders by intimate partners are not isolated situations. Abuse is hiding in plain sight everywhere.
We can trot out the statistics: one in three women experience abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime. But the number is likely to be higher than is officially reported, and there is no ethnic bias (Rawlins, 2000).
We could point to the reality that only 39% of all ‘restraining order’ applications in 1991-93 resulted in successful grants (Lazarus-Black, 2007). There were 154, 288 applications between 2003 to 2018, with a 33% reduction since 2009. But we should not be fooled, the reduction simply means the system is not working.
Why take the trouble if the process does not work well for you? Why take pressure from the police if it does not help your current pressure? A woman can be damaged for reporting abuse or trying to run away.
Google the gruesome case of Zaila Sugrim of Guyana to see the lengths some men will go to. Or consider the case of Jovona Johnson-Barrow of Barbados, whose husband burnt up their children and himself as a possible reprisal for the divorce. He was a respected teacher at a prestige school.
But, do not think it is only outside of Trinidad. It is right here, as the Paladee family can testify about their sister, Dian, who was beaten and shot to death.
“A battered woman is essentially a hostage”, independent senator Dr Varma Deyalsingh said in April. The domestic situation is a complex one that leads to a reluctance to report or consistently follow through. An abuser can turn on the charm and confuse, making the victim desire ‘to work things out’. She seeks stability, and we teach her to keep her troubles private. “Do not involve the police!”
If she goes, there is still pain. Lazarus-Black (2007) speaks to the length of time that the ‘restraining order’ cases take in the courts and how the rites there intimidate and humiliate the women. Time works against her, with sloppy administrative police work causing delays. She now gets battered, for a second time, by a different group of men in the criminal justice system.
Until we accept that half of all women killed by their partners had previously sought help from the police or the criminal justice system at least once and protest, the killings will never stop. Both Dr Deyalsingh and Mrs. Lynette Seebaran- Suite, along with their UWI counterparts, have made ample recommendations. The police and the courts have to act expeditiously.
But we should not hold our breath since this is not a matter that directly affects men and it dismantles male control of women. This is a low priority item unless we, men and women, raise its visibility.
We cannot moan about crime while encouraging this mess. We must say, ‘one slap is enough to leave’. A prior incident of physical abuse is the single biggest indicator of spousal murder. Boys who witness spousal abuse are 10 times more likely to later abuse a female partner, and girls in the same situation are six times more likely to be sexually abused as an adult. These boys tend to fight with family members and skip school and get into trouble with the law, while the girls get depressed or anxious (https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/domestic-violence).
Politeness is dangerous. Silence brings death.