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Break the silence, stop blaming and shaming women who suffer abuse

Break the silence, stop blaming and shaming women who suffer abuse
Left to Right: Dr Cecil Richards, Gale Branch, Dr Alisa Alvis and Rene Baptiste

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by KIRBY JACKSON WOMEN IN ST VINCENT and the Grenadines (SVG) will continue to suffer abuse in silence unless the society becomes more supportive and desist from blaming and shaming them, when they muster the courage to speak out.

This was the assessment of a minister of religion who was a panellist on SEARCHLIGHT’s The Press Room programme on Wednesday.

“Our society is not generally sympathetic towards women,” said Dr Cecil Richards as he noted that for a woman to admit to being a victim of abuse in this country, they will be taking a “high risk” with their character and peace of mind.

The online interview programme was discussing the issues of violence towards women and the need to do more than just march and protest when murders take place.

The pastor and counsellor noted that in his experience interacting with abused women, the feeling of shame that they feel as victims can sometimes overwhelm them, hence they chose silence.

Meanwhile, school and clinical phycologist, Dr Alisa Alvis said that the society has to take stock and realize that it has become complicit in the abuse of women and has also become too comfortable with the “mundane acts of discrimination and sexism that lead to these things (heinous killing of women)” She said it is important that women and society on a whole be educated so that there will be a change of the mindset that only physical transgression should carry that handle of abuse.

“Abuse is not just physical and society has to know it.” she said.

The question of the role of traditional family values, underpinned by religion as a contributor to abuse of women was also raised. Pastor Richards however vehemently rebuffed the idea that the church, and by extension the Bible contribute to the situation, suggesting that scripture is twisted and falsely applied to feed the will of abusers.

He said that at the core of biblical teaching, love is emphasized and a wife is a “suitable partner”, hence abusing her runs contrary to God’s design.

Also on the panel was US-based business executive, Gale Branch who said: “There are for sentences we must tell them (victims of abuse), ‘I believe you, I stand with you, this is not your fault (and) you don’t deserve this’.” She said that key to ridding the society of the scourge of violence towards women, is giving women and girls a safe place where they can feel comfortable speaking out about what is going on with them.

Former government minister, Attorney-at-law, Rene Baptiste added that while some women understandably feel alone when dealing with domestic violence, in addition to the legislation- The Domestic Violence Act 2015- a lot of training continues to be done with officers at the Family Court and police officers to ensure that victims do not suffer more when they have to go through the process of reporting and following through with legal action against perpetrators.

“I am impressed with the work that is done by the staff at the Family Court,” the former Member of Parliament said.

Students from several schools across the country, and workers at various institutions donned orange garb and carried placards last week Friday in an effort to raise awareness and advocate for an end to violence against women. This, after the recent killings of 17-year-old Precious Williams and 42-year-old Luann Roberts whose bodies were found stuffed in a bag and in the back seat of a car respectively.

This outcry was similar to that on February 6, 2020, when hundreds of people, dressed in orange, marched through Kingstown to protest the murder of Cuban-born nurse, Arianna Taylor.

However, Alvis hopes that after the marches the society commits to real change otherwise it runs the risk of becoming “numb” to these happenings and it becomes normal.