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Domestic Violence in Barbados: Who will protect the victim?

Barbadians were in shock after the murder of another one of our women. She was killed in the most brutal manner, the details will forever bring a chill to all Barbadians. The pain felt by her family and close friends will most certainly remain for years to come. Worst yet that she suffered at the hands of her husband, a man who vowed to love, cherish and protect her.

I knew the perpetrator of this violence, as did many of those in my social circles. Though we were not close in recent times, I could not help but take to social media platforms to try to figure out one central question... How did it get to this? I made a call out for persons to act in any way they could. The following account was sent to me. The person asked to remain anonymous. It is written by the victim and this post only serves as a channel for her voice. It had been sitting, unpublished, for a long while... until now.

The Victim's Account

"I was motivated by a sympathetic friend to publicly agitate against critical and underpinning factors surrounding the domestic abuse I suffered, because, as my friend pointed out, who better than me to articulate these wrongs in hopes that my voice might lead to some positive change for women who tend not to ‘speak’ as loudly as I do.

While I continue to manage the effects of the abuse itself, this letter is one attempt at dealing with other elements of my abuse that compounded the damage on to me. I write then to diffuse and redirect the anger and humiliation I still feel eighteen months later over these factors into a positive force. It is my hope that my experience will highlight weaknesses in the system, that they might be addressed, in order that other women can still believe in the security and justice of the police force and the judicial system – especially at a time when they might not believe that anyone else can save them.

While the outline of my abuse is necessary in relating the incidences that have led to this letter, the details are not relevant to my objective and have therefore been largely omitted:

After months of progressively frequent and worsening emotional and verbal abuse, peppered with sporadic threats and physical abuse, my then husband came home intoxicated vandalized the house and my possessions and battered me in front of my two sons. It was this night, that I finally had the fortitude to end my marriage.

The police, at my request, visited my home that morning, in order that I may file a complaint. While I wanted to document the event, in preparation for the certain abuse that was to follow, I did not have the courage to file official charges. I was concerned about the impact having their father arrested would have on my sons, but more so, I was afraid of the further anticipated backlash I might suffer at the hands my husband. There is an expression I hold close, ‘you can’t keep the police in your back pocket’. I recalled the many accounts in the newspaper of men abusing women - the small fines or negligible jail terms they received and the months between filling a complaint and being convicted.

Who would protect me?

Living now alone (having packed his bags and put him out), in the middle of nowhere, with my two young boys, I was scared that if I did charge him with the offense, I would be opening up another avenue of anger and now retribution. My priority was to deal with the immediate issue at hand. Leaving my husband and being safe and ironically, from the onset, our legal system did not make me feel safe.

As anticipated, the terror began - from that July night till it crescendoed in February the following year and then eventually tapered off when he found a ‘new woman’ to direct his energies at. While the physical abuse during this period was occasional, this ‘occasionality’, in combination with the constant barrage of threats and verbal abuse, served as a clear and ongoing reminder that my life was always in jeopardy. I spent months of sleepless nights in absolute fear, with a knife under my pillow and a cutlass next to the bed – waiting.

The abuse climaxed a Friday night in February 2008. Minus the details that, to this day, make me uncomfortable in discussing, he returned to the home, intoxicated, physically assaulted me over a period of seven hours and finally raped me.

I called the police. As I recounted the events of the night, what I recall most of this dialogue, was that it seemed very important to the police that I understand that I was not ‘raped’. Rape, two officers, made clear for me that morning, could not take place between a man and a wife, and unless they were separated a period of one year (it was seven months) and therefore legally separated, rape did not exist. As it were, we were still man and wife. Admittedly, while it was as hard for me to be subjective that morning, as it is still now – the police were not offended by this cruel and violent act, rather they spent their efforts that morning in humiliating me - in diminishing the occurrences of that night to something insignificant and of little consequence, while to me, the events of that night had possibly more reverberations onto my life than any other event of my thirty-three years.

It was also the first time I had ever felt ashamed to be a woman.

I was in the same position as I had been previously – worried that a charge would simply result in a fine, worried that a charge would inflame my abuser. I attempted a different strategy. I went to the doctors. I documented my injuries. I went to court. I made an application for a restraining order. I brought it back to the police station in order that they would serve him.

And then, even while the swelling of my bruises were still subsiding, I was metaphorically struck again. The police officer on duty read the application. He volunteered at no prompting from anyone, to offer to me – and a room full of people, including neighbours and even a colleague – his opinion on the matter; that unless I had been separated for a period of one year, I had not been raped.

Mortified, I left the police station and ruminated on the insensitivities of men. I decided that as I am taking a stance against one abuser, I would not tolerate abuse from another. I returned to the police station and very calmly and rationally, asked the police officer, not in his capacity as servant of the law, but as one human being to another, to please show me some sensitivity.

His reply was that if I had an issue with him, I should direct it to the station sergeant. I left ashamed now not only for me, but for him as well.

My abuser was not served the application for a restraining order for over a month. Despite my very frequent calls to the police station, to the bailiffs, to my lawyer, to Central Police Station, to the court house – despite me providing frequent details as to his whereabouts (he was always very easy to find) – despite my pleads for protection, I did not go to court over the matter until April.

The day of the hearing, I spent hours in the court yard with my abuser. This is hard for me to explain, but I feel it necessary to include in this letter, as an insight into the psychology of an abuse victim and how the relationship between the abuser and the abused is a complex one and should not be hastily misinterpreted. My position had always been to pacify and appease my abuser. I found that this method was the most effective in controlling the situation – and understand as well, that the ‘situation’ was ongoing – nine months at this point. So I was cordial to him that day.

A judge is possibly the most respected position in a society - the top echelon of western civilization, therefore how the judge behaved towards me is of much more significance, than how the police officers did. While the police officers seemed not to take my abuse seriously, neither did the judge – and while it was offensive and humiliating when the police officers did so., it was absolutely devastating when the judge made light of my situation and did not offer me the protection I had literally begged for.

The judge made a quip about how I seemed friendly with the abuser. He had the gall to commit to paper the following restraining order (and I still have a copy): He shall refrain from beating, threatening, abusing or otherwise harassing me for the period of one year!

Are these not my rights as a citizen of Barbados EVERYDAY, ALWAYS?!? Are these not my rights under the Charter of Human Rights?

Further compounded, the judge emphasized (twice) that should I wish to dissolve the restraining order, it would be a simple undertaking. Waive being beaten? It was almost inconceivable that a judge could issue such a statement.

The restraining order was devastating – maybe as devastating as the abuse that warranted it. My ex husband was an ignoramus, but the judge, someone who should have known better, someone who should have shown me some respect and support and defended what was right and condemned what was wrong - he was heartbreaking.

It was confirmed - I was alone in this.

A couple months into the restraining order my ex-husband showed up drunk in my yard, uttering threats. I called the police. He left before they arrived. On arrival they seemed more preoccupied by the dates on the restraining order – which were improperly noted – than my complaint. They asked that I fix the date error at the police station. They never bothered with my ex.

I want to offer the following advice:

• Women, especially immediately post abuse are not in a position to make a decision with respect to charges. This needs not to be a subjective decision on the part of the woman. A crime has been committed. The male needs to be removed immediately from the household and preferably jailed until the hearing;
• The laws that deal with rape need to be updated to reflect the realities of 2010 Barbados. No woman is a possession;
• Sensitivity training for police officers should be mandatory;
• Women police officers should be assigned to cases of domestic abuse and rape where possible;
• There needs to be a zero tolerance rule when it comes to threats, abuse, breaches of restraining orders;
• Police need to be guided by safety of women and children in their actions and prioritize cases of abuse.

I had left this letter incomplete for many, many months. It is now over two years since I was last abused by my ex husband. He has lived in the US for the last year with a woman. This week he called me to let me know that he was coming home to “push down the house” and “make my life miserable”. And who is going to offer me the support and security I am entitled to? This is a call to support domestic abuse with understanding and action."

Comments

Section 3 (4), Sexual Offences Act of Barbados.

3 (4) A husband commits the offence of rape where he has sexual
intercourse with his wife without her consent by force or fear where
there is in existence in relation to them
Cap. 214.
(a) a decree nisi of divorce;
(b) a separation order within the meaning of section 2 of the Family
Law Act;
(c) a separation agreement; or
(dj an order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual
intercourse with her.

Then why was she told otherwise?

And she was not alone: http://barbadosfreepress.wordpress.com/2008/03/26/barbados-police-advise...

That was in also in 2008.

Kirah's picture

This broke my heart to read.

This broke my heart to read. I fully agree with the recommendations made by the victim. I've heard reports about police insensitivity but I was so angry to hear that they don't think that rape could occur between a husband and wife. What century is this??? I must also encourage people to CHARGE these offenders, whether or not they believe that anything will become of it. I have friends in the police force who complain about abused women never officially charging the spouse, and so they could not do anything if they wanted. Please keep spreading the word. Serious attention is only now being paid to domestic violence in Barbados, and in the Caribbean, and we must continue to advocate against it.

Juliette Maughan's picture

Frustrating

How do we even start to fight against perceptions and these mentalities?

Meanwhile more people suffer in silence.

BlueSky's picture

Sounds like an account from

Sounds like an account from my home village, except that there are no police or judges out there. The Authorities are mostly military, tribal leaders and pastors, and mostly unenlightened as to women's rights, or anyone's rights other their own right to mete out justice as the situation suits them. This account from the West is as far South as it gets, and is ringing as part of the global alarm.

And who is hearing? Not those police or those judges or authorities temporarily sitting in that high place. But we are hearing, and giving amplification, not for panic, but warning; warning that their days are numbered, for we are and will continue to demand it until there is no more reason; until we have come to the day where sanity and mutual respect and honor are governing, and anything less is shame and disgrace.

I honor the courage and determination of this sister. And thank you Juliette, for continuing to declare her voice. Because of you, she still speaks.

Best to you Juliette.

How do you all fight against this issue and seek justice?

What are the support systems?

J

BlueSky's picture

Please share your strategies

World Pulse is the loudest vehicle I have, and also why I am BlueSky here. I have mentioned to you in my articles how I was bold enough to confront a Colonel who's men abducted a young girl from her friends, and then when her brother who was a ways off heard the commotion and came toward them, calling out for them to stop, they turned their weapons on him and killed him, and then continued gang raping the teenager. I asked him in a public setting if his men were there to protect the citizens, or rape their daughters and kill their sons. He responded, surrounded by his men, that girls are for sex, and that he could have that girl for sex to. That the tragedy of the situation was that the young man was killed. So due to the public outcry, the three soldiers were incarcerated for a short time, but then released.

Pressuring him any further than I did would have meant suicide. I simply fell mute and walked away as his men sneered.

After I Posted that article I ran into that Colonel at a funeral and he came up to me and spoke cordially to me. These people are still in power, and in our faces, and people don't say anything out of fear for their lives. But there is a swelling of private conversation, and an outrage is beginning to boil, and in time it will boil over in numbers and passion and a will to set things right, and a new course will be set upon, initiated by determined and courageous women. You will see; the Day is coming.

But there must be a beginning to these movements for change, and it is most always begun by some unsuspecting someone; some average citizen in whom this thing was in-kindled, and through whom others became encouraged to join the flame until an unquenchable fire burned that would eventually overwhelm all that had fueled it.

You and I are among those flames that are scattered across the globe. Let us keep burning my sister, for the sake of all those who have fallen before us, and for the sake of all those who will soon be standing with us.

Juliette Maughan's picture

The torch

I had the torch my sister. My prayer are with you to end this atrocity and warfare in your community.

BlueSky's picture

The Torch

Yes you do, and in your hands it is burning brightly!

busayo's picture

The same here!

The story is the same in Nigeria here but I know that when we continue to raise our voices, something will done sooon. Let them continue to tell their stories and you continue to declare their voices. The freedom is around the corner.

Love
Busayo

Busayo Obisakin
Women inspiration Development center
Ile-Ife, Nigeria
busobisaki@yahoo.com
womeninspirationcenter@gmail.com
http://womeninspirationce.wix.com/widcng

mrbeckbeck's picture

Horrifying

It's horrifying to think about this woman's experience, and even more awful to see in the comments that it is a common situation all around the world. I think the solutions this woman suggests are great, but more important is teaching men and boys not to abuse, harass, rape, or in any way degrade other human beings-- especially life partners!

We have a long way to go, but speaking up and breaking the silence on this issue is crucial for everyone. Thanks for sharing this Juliette.

In solidarity,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Juliette Maughan's picture

Where are the men.

Hi Scott,

When I posted this to Facebook and Twitter,even Google+, it has been women mostly that have responded. Very few male voices, even one that did respond ... wow very interesting angle that got the women riled up.

I would love to hear how men feel about the situation and what role the concept of masculinity plays on perpetrating this violence... from their perspective.

J

naught's picture

updating laws

I have also suffered abuse both physically and emotionally by the hands of not just one but three different men. It took me getting in some therapy to understand that I didn't deserve to be treated this way. I have a saying about how I picked men in my life and it is that simply my picker was broken and I needed to fix that before I try to get in another relationship. Really what I want to talk about is laws in regards to rape with in a marriage I currently have no idea what the laws are here in my state but being that we live in a mans world they are probably not much different here. I have jsut started learning how to be an activist for women and this is something that really needs to be addressed. I'm outraged that laws like that are even on the books you have to be seperated legally for a year for a rape to happen or to recognized as a rape by law enforcement. This is saying that women are the property of their husbands and that is not right in any part of the world. Again this really pisses me off the first thing I'm going to do after making this post is look up the laws in my state and see if they read the same way as Barbados law. After reading the comments it sounds like it is like this all over the world lets stand together to make a change for our sister's that don't have a voice!!!!!!!!!!!

Juliette Maughan's picture

Bless you

I am happy to hear that you were able to receive emotional support.

The first step is for women to not be ashamed. Easier said than done. How do we get women to say enough is enough?

How do we get men to join this conversation?

It seems so complex.

Please let me know what you find and what systems are in place.

J

BajanRedSkinned's picture

Sounds Like Me

Hi Juliette

You know me and i know you, we are actually closer than u think. Unfortunately i also knew the victim and the abuser ..... .but i never knew that was their situation nor did they know mine. Let me first apologize for my bad grammar and my bad spelling - i hope spell check does its job- but after reading that story i felt compelled to share mine.

i too suffered physical abuse by my husband..... wow that just felt like a huge weight has been lifted off of my chest - i feel the need to scream..

it only lasted a few months but it was a horrible few months. we were separated for a few months and at the time he had never hit me he tore my name down with our family and friends and nothing more - but he was my husband and we had a family - so i for gave him. we attended a church marriage conference that changed our lives, i took him back and at that time he only confessed to sleeping with a woman in our bed the year before when i went away, i was hurt but i remembered what i had learnt at the conference and i forgave him Unconditionally Love. however a few months later he called me at work and confessed to having a woman pregnant, but that was the most hurtful part for me it was the fact that he new all the while, he looked me in my eyes the past few months and lied to me in my face and to top it all off his mother was supporting the woman- she knew and i didn't - she hated me anyway and this would only make our relationship worst. i was humiliated and felt like the back up plan. my husband and i are young and he was yet to grow "balls" he promised that woman the stars and when she got pregnant he ran back to me. The "other woman" decided she didn't want him to have anything to do with the baby and he agreed - he was ready to turn his back on a child who never asked to be born into this situation, i founded myself loving and hating this child all at the same time, and pushing my husband to do the manly think and fight for his child - a child i was still getting use to.

i began to distance myself from him. i could hardly respect him or trust him. i did my best to make him understand that i was staying and we would have to work through this but i needed time. That was when it started. i work in customer service and im not an unattractive person and the company i work for is extremely busy so i came in contact with lost of people including men. he began calling my work desk asking about the weather, then asking if i got to work and when i go to lunch and when i came off of lunch and during lunch and when i was on my home and how i was getting home. that made me distance myself even more. then one day a friend of mine was coming to the island and i texted him cant wait to see you i miss you.... before i knew what was happening he throw my phone into the wall and tried to take my life, knowing that my one fear in life is dying due to lost of air. he smiled while shouting at me to say sorry, no matter how much i tried to get the words out he hold was too tight and all he did was smile. my 2 boys started knocking on the door and he stopped, and forbid me to speak to my friend.

the raped me one night but i knew that the law doesn't consider it rape, when it was over i was just happy to be alive.
there were anytime he would choked me and let go and repeat it, i began to get very good at not making a sound so i didn't make my boys upset. each time he would be extremely sorry each time he said it would never happen again and it would. he even got baptisted but the night before that he beat me, he was very good at only " black and bluing" my arms r ribs but never my face and any marks on my neck i covered with concealer r laughed off as hickeys. one time he after a night of late beatings he invited 2 women to our house early in the morning to pray and bless the house they had us rub each over down in holy oil and he confessed of hearing devils at night. it old these women what he was doing and all they did was tell him to stop and that it was the devil. he began telling anyone i told that i was addicted to porn and he was feeling deprived.

i finally left 2 beatings in one day the first i went to my mother and it was she would convinced me to go back home that night - let me explain, my husband was an excellent gentleman to everyone but me - so it was hard for her to picture him as the man i tried to tell her. that night my eldest son saw everything i thought he was going to take my life and so i screamed, the police was called and it was a fog from there. the next day i went to the police station to file for a restraining order i had to shout across the desk at the officer all my personal accounts the rape and everything while complete strangers listened in and stared at me. i was humiliated. i had nail broken and some completely torn out of their nail beds so my hair was in a mess. i superintendence or "head guy" at the holetown police station told me the only way to make sure he leaves me alone would be to give him some nights in prison but like the victim i didnt want the father of my child in jail, i mean how would he ever be able to get a job and survive after that. when we went to court he torn me apart and said i inflicted the marks on myself.

for now im alive and though things get heated sometimes he hasn't done anything, its been 8mths he has taken all my friends and dragged my name down. so far he doesn't know where i live nor my home number only cell. No one would talk to me or go out in public with me since they all think he's crazy and liable to go off.

for now i have life and im thankful. i had no avenues and no one to talk to i tried calling all the women advocates for abuses women i knew with no response the only people the responded was PAREDOS and they helped my son after what he saw. more is needed. i count myself luck for now, and i think its high time more women speak out.

Juliette Maughan's picture

Welcome to Worldpulse

Hey,

First of all, welcome to WorldPulse. It is an amazing space to remain anonymous, if desired, and connect with women from all around the world. If you choose to engage with this network, I am confident that you will find women that relate to some of the difficulties that you must have faced. Plus, as you can see, you can speak for yourself.

Secondly, I salute your bravery and I am honoured and humbled that you shared your story with me.

Given that you know me, I would be interested to know what you recommend I could do with these accounts that are coming my way? Two common themes are the fact that there are men that are using their physical strength and misuse it to control and abuse women. The second, and possibly the one that could be remedied in a shorter term that the previous point, is that of protection and treatment of women in an abusive situation. There is a third, relating to support networks (family, friends, institutions) that appear to need to be strengthened.

What can be done? From your perspective to remedy this issue in our country? Should there be an article in the newspapers? Should we write the Commissioner of the police to ask that the police truly protect victims, men and women? What is a small but next step to support all other efforts?

I urge you to try again to reach out to the SAVE Foundation and keep trying because it is important to have someone that is familiar with the experience that you endured. I wish for you to chart your path towards inner peace.

Lots of love, hugs and kisses.

J

Emie Zozobrado's picture

That's why we're here!

Hi Juliette! This account you have just tackled is sooooo terrifying! And yet it is happening in every nook and crook of this great wide world. It takes place in my own country as well and it seems not much has changed for the better despite laws and support systems that surround a Filipino woman. It's real sad. I do believe since you are dealing with state authorities in Barbados you need to seek assistance and support from established international organizations that may have moral ascendancy on women issues, the UN Women, for instance. Also, I think your women authorities (public officers or government officials) or women groups will have to lobby for women and child protection. You can invite women advocates, supporters and allies on public discussions and forums and see how things can be done. Our voices, no matter how loud, will not produce the results we want without corresponding concrete and strategic actions. There is a need to rally support from all sectors of society so that laws on women and child protection can be filed, promulgated and implemented properly.

I suggest, for a start, that you gather stories (of victims), data (statistics) and relevant information to support your efforts and validate your claims. There are many global non-government organizations operating world-wide with advocacy on women and children protection, complete with funding (very important) and mechanisms. You may search them on the net and work it out from there. Domestic violence is an age-old problem that continue to hound us because even as we raise our voices there is not much concrete and strategic action that go with our struggles. We can shout on the streets, vent our anger, disillusionment and frustration and pour out our tales of woe online or on air, but if we cannot get the support of authorities and get them to act to address these issues once and for all, our hopes are in vain. For now our awareness and sensitivity has grown amazingly ... and all we need is the motivation to act.

Sisters, we are partly responsible for what happens to us. In so many ways, we have allowed things to happen to us by omission - that is, not doing what we know we need to do. All the best to all of us ...

Always,
Emie OZ

Juliette Maughan's picture

Thanks for the advice

Hi Emie,

Fortunately and strangely enough, someone recommended that child protection approach as well. Where there is a child involved it is easier to get a response.

We will have to work from there.

Essentially, I am doing what little I can on this issue. I work on so many others. All fall under gender equality and human rights so they are all piece of the pie.

Juliette

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Go Girl!

Wow! You're such a very courageous soul, Juliette!

And yes, women issues always drag the children because the ultimate victims are these innocent beings who never asked to be born in such a very miserable state in the first place. When a mother suffers, the children suffer more. We cannot just save the mothers and leave the children unattended. For goodness sake, they are our future! If we let go of our future today, what is left for us? It would create a vicious cycle and there goes all our dreams, hopes and struggles! Women and children are inseparable. It's the permanent cycle of life and we need to see women issue as women in the context of woman as a mother.

There are so many interested and concerned individuals and groups around that you may be able to tap. Get going, sister. You're way ahead to make it loud and clear.

Always,
Emie IZ

amiesissoho's picture

Sad and disturbing. But we

Sad and disturbing. But we need to also speakout to the mass media to bring publc attention to the dangers women face in the private domestic space, It is another level of challenging the authorities to be accountable especially those in the systems that are suppose to protect women.

Keep the courage Sisters.

Amie

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