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Monday, 3 May 2010

Domestic Violence

Q: I don't think I could take anymore abuse, but I know he'll go crazy if I report it.

A: I worked as a Legal Intern at the House of Ruth in Baltimore, USA, so this is something that I've had first hand experience with.

My question to you is: What's more important? Your partner getting upset or you receiving a fatal blow one day?

When it comes to solutions for domestic violence, the most important thing to understand is, if it isn't getting better, it's getting worse. Don't fool yourself! If the violent person is promising to change but never does anything about that promise, get yourself and your children out of the environment and contact your local Police Station! If the violence includes more than just verbal abuse, make sure the abuser can't find you or the children and call 999.

The Domestic Violence Act (1999) is on your side. It was designed to provide greater protection for victims of domestic violence, so use it!

A United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office document released on 29 January 2008 stated that Trinidad and Tobago has a "high level of domestic violence," while human rights reports covering 2007 describe the problem of domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago as "significant"

Domestic violence, under the Domestic Violence Act, is the physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse committed by a person against a spouse, child, any other person who is a member of the household, or a dependant.

Even if you're as young as me, just by reading Sam Selvon's, A Brighter Sun (which most of us did for exams), one can see Domestic Violence even in those times when Tiger drank and abused his wife, Urmilla, so don't think it's a new phenomenon.

As time progressed and the number of incidents multiplied, Police administrators recognised that the domestic violence situation warranted their immediate attention. This was confirmed in 1991, when Trinidad and Tobago introduced legislation classifying particular offences as domestic violence. The then Commissioner of Police got actively involved in formulating directives to guide police officers in their response to reports of domestic violence.

Officers were instructed to respond promptly to all such reports. Casual dispersal of domestic violence reports was firmly discouraged. All reports of domestic violence were to be investigated and appropriate action instituted in the same manner as would be done in the investigation of any other crime.

This, unfortunately is not the current situation. The Police in Trinidad and Tobago are extremely lax with Domestic Violence incidents. In this Trinidad Express report in 2005, one of the women interviewed said she made "many many many reports." This Newsday report says that deaths quadrupled, even though Domestic Violence reports to the police increased by 60%.

I have a personal experience with this. Once when visiting a friend in Chaguanas, I saw a man cursing and kicking his door to get his wife to open after she'd managed to run inside to hide. When I contacted the Longdenville Police Post, I was calmly told, "We don't have any cars available." ABSOLUTE madness.

It is clear that the nonchalant attitude of the Police often result in the woman being killed, or in this case, the man. This is a leading case for Domestic Abuse in the UK. After initially being convicted, she was released because the courts finally realised the abuse she endured.

Protection Orders are meant to be protective barriers, but they are, in my opinion, ineffective. I personally do not recommend them because throughout the years, they've only proven to annoy the offender.

The website of Trinidad and Tobago's Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs indicates that a Domestic Violence Unit was established in May 1997 to provide counselling, information and referral services, and outreach programs to victims of domestic violence. The Unit operates a twenty-four hour domestic violence hotline (800-SAVE)-7283) and community drop-in centres, which are open one day per week (one day is COMPLETELY OUTRAGEOUS). In 2008, the Inter-American Development Bank approved a US$24.5 million loan to Trinidad and Tobago to help reduce crime, including domestic violence

A Domestic Violence Registry has been in the works since 2008, whose purpose is to keep a more detailed, coherent register of offenders and victims, but I'm unsure as to the progress; I don't know if it's been implemented as yet.


  1. The above post has rightly stated that domestic violence is “significant” in Trinidad and Tobago. While the topic is “Legal Rights: Trinidad and Tobago,” I would like to outline several factors that I believe is of utmost importance, as when they are successfully addressed, the issue of domestic violence would be curbed or considerably reduced. Firstly, being a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, I am aware of the inefficiency of the police service. However, women in situations of domestic violence do have a part to play in the decreasing interest of the police. You stated that a woman reported that she made “many many many reports” to the police of her situation. The fact that she made many reports highlights that she is continuing to have relations with her abuser, as do many women in Trinidad and Tobago who is subject to domestic abuse. As such, the police may become uninterested as the women tend not to pursue the issue further. Thus, women must be less afraid and forgiving and follow through on the advice of the police to leave or seek legal measures. Additionally, while measures are being put in place to address domestic violence, when it happens, the casual factors should be examined and the problem should be stopped at its source. One causal factor of domestic violence is the patriarchal nature of society, more specifically Trinbagonian society and by extension Caribbean society. The patriarchal principle is transferred into the socialization of children, especially primary socialization. As such, boys and girls should be socialized, at home as well as in the education system, that both genders are equal and that physical, psychological as well as sexual abuse is never the answer and that all problems should be worked out through effective communication between the parties involved. As such, the younger generations would not gravitate to violent and abusive measures which would inevitably result in the demise of domestic violence. Therefore, while legislature is important, socialization into patriarchy, inequality and violence should be shopped and women in relationships plagued with domestic violence should end the relationship at once. When this is not done, the victims of domestic violence themselves are condoning this negative phenomenon.

  2. what happens at courts, 1st appearance after an application for DVA made?
    whats the next step?

  3. My mother has been married to my father for over 30 years.

    He has not been physically abusive to us until recently he hit my mother because he has recently started to be vocal about out discomfort.

    We grew up living like birds in a cage; he is like a prison officer who demands what we do when we do and how. He never provides or protects or contributes to our development.
    My mother in receipt of a govt grant for my sister who is autistic and she works magic with that, paying bills, feeding us and sending us to school. All my father does for the past many years is work taxi when he has to pay his internet bill and fix his car.
    The topic of divorce came up because she is ill and cant afford to keep using my sister money for there lively hood . He lividly told her never and if he is mad enough to do so they have to sell the house and split the money because she can’t reap the benefit of the house. My mother explained to him that she would give everything up but she has my 3 sisters including my autistic sister which she in unable at 53 years old to hold down a fulltime job because she has to see about my autistic sister and have nowhere to go. His response was that they of age.
    My mother wants a divorce but can’t afford a lawyer, she feels unsafe because he told us all that he is dead to all of us and he is at peace with god.

    She has filed for a restraining order and has a first courts appearance this week.
    What are her options? What happens at courts, what can she do to safeguard herself?
    How can she get a divorce since he wouldn’t entertain the idea, What is most likely to happen legally after the court hearing?


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