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Thread: Domestic Violence in the Caribbean

  1. #1
    Toppa_Toppa
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    Domestic Violence in the Caribbean

    What's being done to address the situation? Throughout the C'bean no less than 30% of women report being the subject of physical abuse. The actual number is much higher because the incidents of abuse are sorely under-reported. In Jamaica, police estimated that 39% of the murders are a result of DV with women being the victim? I read that in an article recently. Was very shocked. In Trinidad it's happens often as well and the police are generally unsympathetic to the women. There have been quite a few incidents of women who took out protective orders against their husbands who were still hunted down and killed. Why is this so prevalent? Is this a cultural thing? I know in Trinidad there is the Coalition against Domestic Violence and the government only recently tried to implement some legislature to protect women and children. How many of you know women who have been or are being abused? Me, I know about at least five in my family.

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  2. #2
    Toppa_Toppa
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    An order, but little protection

    Rohandra John rohjohn@trinidadexpress.com


    Sunday, September 7th 2008


    For ten years, Jenny Louis (not her real name) endured her husband's beating, silently. The first time her husband hit her was just days before their wedding. Louis, in love with the man who was to be her husband, dismissed the incident and married him nonetheless.

    After all, he was extremely apologetic and had promised not to hit her again.

    After the couple got married, Louis's husband beat her again and again. The abuse got worse as the years went by.

    There were times when the mother of two was forced to cover her face with make-up to hide the bruises because she did not want her colleagues at work to know that her husband was abusing her.

    "I will never forget the time when he literally cuffed me from the Queen's Park Savannah all the way over to the Lady Young until we came home.

    "I had to go to work the next day, I had no choice. I used make-up to hide the bruises and my swollen face. But some of my colleagues realised something was wrong and they asked me what happened. I made up a story that held them for a while, but everything eventually came out," she recalled in an interview.

    As if the beatings were not enough, her husband also verbally abused Louis. Her self-esteem reached an all time low. She was broken and emotionally distraught.

    She feared for her life and was even more concerned about the well-being of her children. She eventually summoned the courage to break off the relationship, but this did not sit well with her husband.

    On the advice of a trusted friend, she applied for a three-year protection order against her husband, believing it would keep her safe and out of harm's way. Her husband breached the protection order several times. Louis discovered she could not count on the police for help. In fact, she said she found the police indifferent towards her plight.

    "There was one time he came to the house. I was inside and did not open the door at all. A girlfriend was with me at the time but I was really scared so I called the police but they told me they had no vehicle.

    "Another time he came to my work place, he was a person who liked to make a scene but my colleagues knew I had taken out a protection order against him so they were able to alert me.


    "There was another time he came to my new home and started banging on the door. I tried to block him but I could not, he pushed his way through the door and came in and choked me," she said.

    Fortunately none of those encounters ended in her death, but Louis thinks the system failed her.

    "Imagine calling the police for help and all they can say is that they have no vehicle. I felt hurt. I felt deserted by the system. I felt alone and I had a lot of mixed emotions. I now trust God, not the system".

    Louis, now an evangelist who specialises in counselling other abused women, said many of these women also feel a sense of "hopelessness" with the current system and did not feel safe with a protection order in hand.


    "I know of quite a number of women who have taken out protection orders but they still do not feel safe. When you think taking out a protection order will help cool them (abusive spouse), sometimes it can make things even worse. My husband got more agitated when I took out the order against him," she said.

    Louis has lived to share her story and get on with her life but other women have not been so lucky.

    Theodora Lares, 39 , a mother of two, and Rena Ramcharan, a mother of four, were both killed by their estranged spouses.

    In 1999, Lares was hacked to death by her spouse while sleeping behind locked doors with the protection order at her side. During her eight-year relationship, Lares was chopped , choked and battered and on one occasion, her abuser tried to pull out her tongue.

    Three weeks after she took out the protection order, the man entered the house in the dead of the night while she was asleep and chopped her to death, using what was believed to be a cocoa knife.

    Only three weeks after, another mother, Rena Ramcharan, was hunted down and killed by her husband after she had secured a protection order against him. She had been on the run for eight months and had lived at eight different locations during that time to evade her husband. It was while making her way back to her new hideout home that her husband caught up with her.

    He blocked her car along the Exchange Lot Road, dragged her out and rained chops on her in full view of their 16-year-old daughter.

    Rena died in the hospital the next day, having lost an arm, hand and most of her fingers. Her husband drank poison when the police moved to arrest him and died within minutes.

  3. #3
    Toppa_Toppa
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    It was eight years ago, after nearly a decade of severe beatings, rapes and mental torture, that Indravani Pamela Ramjattan finally decided she had nothing left to lose.

    Her husband, Alexander Jordan, a close friend of the local police in their rural Trinidadian town of Cumuto, had tracked her down at a friend’s house in a nearby village, she later testified. She had been hiding from him with two of their six children for more than a week.

    “He kicked down the door and began smashing up the property,” Ramjattan recalled in an affidavit last year. “He said that he had ‘come to shed blood.’

    “When we arrived back home, Jordan locked me in the bedroom. He threatened to blow my head away with his shotgun. He took the piece of wood he had brought in the van and told me he was going to sink my head into my neck with it.”

    And he nearly did.

    The 4-foot-11, 102-pound Ramjattan was beaten unconscious by her much larger 47-year-old husband, she and her eldest daughter later testified in their sworn statements. And an hour later, when the 28-year-old Ramjattan came to, they said, Jordan had lined up all six children in their unfinished shack and asked each child, one by one, if he should kill their mother.

    That was Feb. 4, 1991. A week later, Jordan was beaten to death by two men whom Ramjattan had called to rescue her–one her lover. Ramjattan swears she never asked them to kill Jordan, and prosecutors concede that she never raised a hand against a man they acknowledge had abused her for years.

    Still, Ramjattan was convicted of murder, and the Trinidadian government says it is her turn to die.

    Now sentenced to hang after a succession of judges also acknowledged her years of abuse but refused to accept them as justification for murder, Ramjattan has filed an appeal that is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Privy Council in London, which remains the supreme court for Trinidad and other Caribbean nations that are former British colonies.

    The case could set a precedent for these island nations where, women’s rights advocates say, wife-killers routinely get minimal prison terms while wives who retaliate against abusers often are prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law.

    A Cause Celebre for Women’s Groups

    Ramjattan vs. the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the first such case to reach the highest court for the region, and it has become a cause celebre in recent months for women’s solidarity groups here and abroad that say they are trying to balance the scales of justice.

    The case also has become powerful ammunition in the hands of abolitionists fighting the death penalty in Trinidad and several other Caribbean nations.

    But mostly, this slight woman on death row, who left school at 13 and mothered her children while enduring nine years of physical and mental torment, has become a prototype for social workers and rights groups battling domestic violence in more than a dozen nations of the English-speaking Caribbean.

    Women’s rights activists say studies done so far on domestic violence in the Caribbean offer no clear picture of the extent of the problem, but they believe it is widespread.

    “If you take a rough rate of 1 in 10 cases being reported, I estimate there is an incident of domestic violence taking place in Trinidad every 20 minutes,” said Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, a Trinidadian senator who has led the fight against domestic violence here.

    “That may not seem to be very high in comparison to the United States or other countries outside the region,” said Mahabir-Wyatt, who founded the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the late 1980s. “But in small societies like ours, it is very high, because there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

    Official statistics show that, on average, about 20 women and children are killed by domestic violence each year in this twin-island nation of about 1.2 million people.

    Trinidad is hardly unique in the region. Cathy Shepherd, who heads the 14-nation Caribbean Assn. for Feminist Research and Action, cited other studies:

    * Police in Jamaica attributed 39% of their murders in 1995 to domestic disputes. The overwhelming majority of the victims were women.

    * Out of 97 women ages 20 to 45 surveyed in Antigua, 30% said they had been battered as adults.

    * The same percentage of 264 women surveyed in the same age group in Barbados said they had suffered domestic abuse as adults.

    But such figures fail to show the extent of the problem, women’s activists here say, because most abuse in the region is not reported.

    “It’s a cultural thing,” said attorney Roberta Clarke, one of the Trinidadian attorneys representing Ramjattan in her appeal. “How do you charge the man who is the father of your children? If he goes to jail, he doesn’t work. If he doesn’t work, he can’t support the children.”

    A Society Where Education Is Strong

    Clarke and other women’s rights advocates say it may seem ironic that Ramjattan’s case arose in Trinidad; the oil- and gas-rich nation has a strong economy and a quality educational system that should foster a higher awareness of such social issues.

    Parliament, in fact, passed the region’s first law against domestic violence, in 1991. A pioneering Community Police Unit created three years ago to specialize in domestic-abuse cases has won high praise from women’s groups and victims of such violence. And private organizations have opened half a dozen shelters for abused women during the past decade.

    But activists assert that little has been done to institutionalize the progressive 1991 law and change traditional attitudes.

    “We have found that many of the women coming to our shelters still don’t know they have a right to live a violence-free life,” Mahabir-Wyatt said. “Wife-beating is not treated seriously by the police, and it is not treated seriously by the courts.”

    Clarke and other attorneys point to volumes of testimony not only in the Ramjattan case but in several other recent domestic violence cases that they say show a judicial double standard, although they have yet to conduct a systematic analysis to document the claim.

    Using anecdotal evidence, though, Mahabir-Wyatt’s coalition seized on the issue last year after the courts sentenced former Trinidadian police officer Don Renaud to 10 years in prison for killing his fiancee, Allison Majardsingh. That came soon after another islander, Christopher Sirju, received a five-year sentence for killing his wife, Indra, and an additional six years for attempting to drown their two children. And after Winston Joseph received a five-year prison term for fatally strangling his wife, Pansy Wiltshire, who was six months pregnant when she died.

  4. #4
    Toppa_Toppa
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    In each of those cases, the men were convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

    “It would appear that while the murder of a man by his wife is a murder to be regarded seriously, the murder of a woman and an unborn child by her husband is only a killing and therefore is not such a serious issue,” the coalition said in a news release after Renaud’s sentencing. “Longer sentences are given for possession of cocaine. And this is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago.”

    Ramesh Maharaj, the nation’s attorney general, rejected the charge.

    “If that is the case, then it is an accusation that should be made in a court of law,” he said.

    Of the Ramjattan case, he said: “The fact is, Pamela Ramjattan got a trial before a judge and jury. She had every opportunity to present her case. And the conviction was upheld by the [Trinidadian] Court of Appeal. You have a situation where you had 12 jurors, three judges in the Court of Appeal and three judges in the United Kingdom who said there was no travesty of justice.”

    In fact, Ramjattan’s lawyers chose not to present evidence of her years of abuse at her 1995 trial. Rather, it was the prosecution that used the abuse to reinforce the argument that Ramjattan had a strong motive to murder her husband.

    Her lawyers also chose not to focus on the abuse in her first appeal to the Privy Council, which declined to hear the case two years ago despite acknowledging that she had suffered years of abuse that the panel called “a reign of terror.”

    Local lawyers said Ramjattan’s defense was complicated by the fact that, at the time of her husband’s death, she was pregnant with the child of her lover, who was charged and convicted, along with a friend, of beating Jordan to death in his sleep. Both are appealing their death sentences. Ramjattan conceded that she summoned and opened the door for her husband’s killers that night.

    Extent of Brutality Slow to Surface

    It was only last year, Mahabir-Wyatt and several local attorneys say, that they learned through interviews with Ramjattan on death row about the extent of the brutality. They hired a British lawyer and filed the appeal now pending before the Privy Council, a rare request for a rehearing by the high court that could set a precedent for the islands: that domestic abuse can justify homicide in self-defense.

    Specifically, the appeal asks the council to reconsider the case based on new evidence: a 17-page psychiatric report on Ramjattan by a London-based expert on domestic abuse. Forensic psychiatrist Nigel Eastman of London’s St. George’s Hospital Medical School concluded that Ramjattan was a classic victim of “battered woman syndrome.”

    Eastman’s report states that Ramjattan suffered “repetitive physical violence, culminating in a most severe attack on 4th February, repeated rapes … enforced isolation … amounting ultimately [to] imprisonment as a hostage in the days leading up to the offense, threats to kill, attacks with weapons, threats with a shotgun, worsened violence if she protested, worsened violence when she escaped, humiliation and mental abuse [starving and beating their children and refusing to allow them to go to school].”

    Those finds are bolstered by several new affidavits from Ramjattan; her eldest daughter, Candice; and even Jordan’s first wife, Moonie Joseph, who alleges in her statement that Jordan abused her for 17 years before leaving her for Ramjattan.

    The affidavits, filed last year in a separate, pending appeal to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, paint a picture that local social workers say is all too common, in some ways, in rural areas of the Caribbean. They assert that Ramjattan was, in effect, sold to Jordan by her parents when she was 17 and forced to live in a remote area where traditional gender values reign supreme.

    Ramjattan stated that, after Jordan alternately threatened her parents and offered them cash, they sent her to live with him in a two-bedroom concrete structure without electricity or phone service. Two years later, she said, the abuse began: Jordan repeatedly beat, raped and threatened her with a shotgun for the next nine years.

    Candice, who was 10 at the time of the murder, added in her affidavit last year that Jordan also beat her and her siblings. She stressed the family’s feeling of helplessness:

    “My father was good friends with the local police. He went shooting for wild animals with them near our house, on average once or twice a month… . They would come back to our house before or after going shooting, and there they would see my mother’s injuries. She so often had black eyes, bruises and swelling over her face… . The police would never have done anything to protect my mother.

    “I know that what my mother wanted was an end to all the beatings and abuse,” Candice added. “She did not want my father dead. She just wanted him to stop beating her and us.”

    Maharaj, the attorney general, said he believes that attitudes of law enforcement toward domestic violence are changing because of gender-sensitivity classes being taken by police, prosecutors and judges. But he conceded that the drama of Ramjattan’s case–and the dilemma it presents his government–has brought increased attention to the death penalty issue in Trinidad.

    But rights activists say Ramjattan’s case never should have gotten this far.

    “The fact is,” concluded Mahabir-Wyatt, “attitudes in our judicial systems throughout this region–and the world–must change much faster, or we’re going to have a lot more Pamela Ramjattans.”

    The Case of the Death Row Widow - Los Angeles Times

  5. #5
    ........... ~Urbane~'s Avatar ~Urbane~ is offline
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    I think a lot of the Domestic abuse problems (men hitting women) is caused by women. I have seen women first hand that walk over and horn "nice men" because there to "soft" and cry over the abusive ones when they are out with there other woman cheating. Its like you have to be a controlling and dominate force for some women to respect you.


    This video is funny...but its true in many cases also.

    [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKalprIGeFs]YouTube - Domestic Abuse No Longer A Problem, Say Female Researchers[/ame]
    “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is:
    Try to please everybody” Herbert Bayard Swope

  6. #6
    Toppa_Toppa
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    Wow. So a lot of it is caused by women? Again...wow.

  7. #7
    ........... ~Urbane~'s Avatar ~Urbane~ is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toppa_Toppa View Post
    Wow. So a lot of it is caused by women? Again...wow.

    Well I will say a good percentage of it could be avoided by women.
    “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is:
    Try to please everybody” Herbert Bayard Swope

  8. #8
    Toppa_Toppa
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    Quote Originally Posted by ~Ragga~ View Post
    Well I will say a good percentage of it could be avoided by women.

    How much first hand experience do you have with domestic violence? Especially as it relates to the Caribbean. I am guessing very little.

  9. #9
    ms_socadiva
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    Quote Originally Posted by ~Ragga~ View Post
    I think a lot of the Domestic abuse problems (men hitting women) is caused by women. I have seen women first hand that walk over and horn "nice men" because there to "soft" and cry over the abusive ones when they are out with there other woman cheating. Its like you have to be a controlling and dominate force for some women to respect you.


    This video is funny...but its true in many cases also.

    YouTube - Domestic Abuse No Longer A Problem, Say Female Researchers


    i read it all!!

  10. #10
    where de crix Oneshot's Avatar Oneshot is offline
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    i think is because of the economic dependence

  11. #11
    ........... ~Urbane~'s Avatar ~Urbane~ is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toppa_Toppa View Post
    How much first hand experience do you have with domestic violence? Especially as it relates to the Caribbean. I am guessing very little.

    Good thing its just a guess because you are wrong.


    Quote Originally Posted by ms_socadiva View Post


    i read it all!!

    LOL....Well read it again.
    “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is:
    Try to please everybody” Herbert Bayard Swope

  12. #12
    Toppa_Toppa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oneshot View Post
    i think is because of the economic dependence
    Yup. My father always warned me to make sure and secure my economic independence and the only way to do that was through education. He grew up seeing his mother abused. And my mother grew up seeing her mother abused. And my mother was also subject to abuse (not from my father) and I can assure Ragga that she did nothing to deserve it.

  13. #13
    Now what you gonna say??? Rinababy's Avatar Rinababy is offline
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    I think Bakes and AJB were on point in the other thread. Bottom line is people will always victimize those they feel are vulnerable. If a man is married to a woman and he knows shes got 3 brothers and a father or uncle who would beat them within an inch of their lives if they ever laid a hand on they wife or girlfriend, that man would prolly be about 75% less likely to lay a hand on his wife. An abuser is like any other criminal they gonna do what they can get away with.

    Changing the laws are the first step in the right direction. Hpefully once this happens a change in attiudes will follow...

  14. #14
    Registered User small_island_descent's Avatar small_island_descent is offline
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    I should put this here too then,


    Could the fact that the laws are aren't very strict about domestic abuse in caribbean and the fact that people tend to not get involved when they should, come from the "blame the victim" mentality ?

    I'm not defending it, but someone could turn around and say "Why must I get involved in this woman's relationship to stop her from being abused when she is the one choosing to be there ?" or say "Why should the police waste their time locking the man up when in 2 weeks, she gonna be crying and screaming to have him let out so they can be a "family" again ?"

    I think that's a BIG mentality that needs to be addressed as well. This mentality that outsiders might feel "it's her fault since she chose him, married him, etc..." They have it in some rural areas in Canada too and I remember seeing a small news report talking about how they need to educate these people that regardless of her choices, abuse is wrong and should be reported and the laws enforced.

  15. #15
    where de crix Oneshot's Avatar Oneshot is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rinababy View Post
    I think Bakes and AJB were on point in the other thread. Bottom line is people will always victimize those they feel are vulnerable. If a man is married to a woman and he knows shes got 3 brothers and a father or uncle who would beat them within an inch of their lives if they ever laid a hand on they wife or girlfriend, that man would prolly be about 75% less likely to lay a hand on his wife. An abuser is like any other criminal they gonna do what they can get away with.

    Changing the laws are the first step in the right direction. Hpefully once this happens a change in attiudes will follow...
    that would not stop a sociopath though. the easiest thing to do is let the woman believe she deserved it. that is not that difficult when you already have the upper hand economically

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