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Protecting our Children

A vehicle going at about 80 mph, coupled with an angry abusive boyfriend who was trying to pull her shoes off her feet, was a recipe for disaster. He opened the door, raised his feet and pushed her fragile body out of the moving vehicle on to the busy highway.

Denisha Ramdhan

A young mother of two walks to her front door to open it for her fiancé. Upon opening the door she was greeted with a punch to her face and a hail of questions about another man she knew nothing about. She was repeatedly hit in the face until blood started flowing, followed with threats that the blows would not stop until she died.

A seven year old girl locked in a room of her neighbour’s house being forced to perform oral sex on an adult male. She was repeatedly reminded that if she didn’t she would get into trouble for breaking a glass by accident.

A young woman having a drink in a bar with a friend was knocked off her chair and kicked violently on the ground. Her common law husband continuously hitting her with a piece of iron about her body. She was eventually forced to leave with him under duress.

These are all true stories, stories that were never reported. Incidents like these happen every day; no counselling is given; the perpetrators are allowed to walk free to continue to hurt others without fear and having no accountability for their actions.

There is a cycle that needs to be broken. “Hurt people hurt people.” Domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, gender-based violence are all on the rise in the Caribbean. Every year we lose sisters, mothers, children, friends to one of the above mentioned.

What is being done about it? Whose fault is it? Why is it getting worse? Why does one out of every three women have to be a victim? Why are they even victims to this heinous acts? Why are these crimes not indictable offences? How do we offer support to the victims so they would be able to have the strength to stand and say, “Yes I am a victim and yes I was abused!” Where are the victim advocacy support groups?

When will we as a nation and a Caribbean region stop blaming victims and making them feel worse than they already do? When will we actually stand up and be a strong support system? It is so hard for victims to ask for help, to reach out, to say I’m being hurt. It’s a very painful, embarrassing situation. A situation where you feel as if you don’t have a choice, you feel isolated as if you have no one to turn to. Let me assure you that you do.

Being a survivor of sexual child abuse and domestic violence as an adult, I thought my painful journey would never end. I remember being suicidal because I had lost all hope, all faith, I had made the choice to take my own life than continue to endure the pain I was feeling. Little did I know that I had a choice!

It took me a long time to understand that it was not my fault; that I was not alone and I could survive it. It took me a long time to do normal things like go out, be confident, to see my true beauty. You don’t have to hide. The first thing that you need to do is reach out for help and let someone know what’s going on. Work towards your plan of escape.

In most cases of abuse, the abuser prefers to not have anyone know what they are doing, they prefer to hurt you in private; speaking out and shedding light on what is going on can assist in defusing the situation at times.

Planning a safe exit from an abusive relationship is a necessary and important step before breaking the ties with your partner. The National Domestic Violence Hotline suggests following these steps to improve your chances of leaving safely.

• Know the phone number to your local battered women's shelter.

• Let a trusted family member, friend, coworker or neighbours know your situation. Develop a plan for when you need help; code words you can text if in trouble, a visual signal like a porch light: on equals no danger, off equals trouble.

• If you are injured, go to a doctor or an emergency room and report what happened to you. Ask that they document your visit.

• Keep a journal of all violent incidents, noting dates, events and threats made.

• Keep any evidence of physical abuse, such as pictures.

• Plan with your children and identify a safe place for them. Reassure them that their job is to stay safe, not to protect you.

• If you need to sneak away, be prepared. Make a plan for how and where you will escape.

• Back your car into the driveway, and keep it fueled. Keep your driver's door unlocked and other doors locked for a quick escape.

• Hide an extra set of car keys.

• Set money aside. Ask friends or family members to hold money for you.

• Pack a bag. Include an extra set of keys, IDs, car title, birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards, marriage licence, clothes for yourself and your children, shoes, medications, banking information, money – anything that is important to you. Store them at a trusted friend or neighbour's house. Try to avoid using the homes of next-door neighbours, close family members and mutual friends.

• Take important phone numbers of friends, relatives, doctors, schools, etc.

• If time is available, also take:
Citizenship documents (such as your passport, residency card, etc.)
Titles, deeds and other property information
Medical records
Children's school and immunization records
Insurance information
Verification of social security numbers
Welfare identification
Valued pictures, jewelry or personal possessions

• Know abuser's schedule and safe times to leave.

• Be careful when reaching out for help via Internet or telephone. Erase your Internet browsing history, websites visited for resources, e-mails sent to friends/family asking for help. If you called for help, dial another number immediately after in case abuser hits redial.

Allow me to share the stories of other survivors, mine included, in the hope that it can assist in helping anyone break free. Break free from the guilt, the depression, the fright, the feeling of helplessness. Let us unite and help each other over come this enigma and cast it behind us where it belongs.

Girl Power
Gender-based Violence
Latin America and the Caribbean
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