Recently, we have been navigating and supporting a victim of domestic violence through the process of reporting and following up on the matter. We are now convinced that the system that exists, while excellent; if, as a victim, you don’t have that support network, your only choice will be to stay in the abusive relationship, endure the abuse, and prepare yourself for death.
A matter pertaining to domestic violence (physical abuse) was reported to a Police station on the East Coast in January 2022. A file was prepared and sent to the DPP for advice in February.
Mind you, because of who the perpetrator is, calls were made to the highest office of the Guyana Police Force, just to ensure the matter was not another one accumulating dust in someone’s office. Firstly, we thought there was a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence, and that the Police would investigate and prepare a file, and that the abuser would be placed before the courts. We weren’t aware that a file had to be sent to the DPP for advice.
The file came back, and according to the fiat, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. Not sure what happened here.
The Act states that “domestic violence offence” means a prescribed offence committed by a person against another person with whom the person is associated, or a relevant child; and a prescribed offence is murder or attempted murder, manslaughter, and the use or threatened use of any other violence or physical or emotional injury. The Act is clear.
The victim was able to obtain a protection order, and the perpetrator breached it, and here again, a file is being prepared to be sent to the DPP for advice. Violating a protection order can lead to a punishment. Whatever happened to perpetrators being held responsible for their behaviours, and acts that constitute a criminal offence must be dealt with accordingly? He physically abused his wife of their children.
And we ask why women stay in abusive relationships? This process is why women stay. The victim feels the abuser is being given special treatment by the Police. He is allowed to do what he wants to do to her, and in the process, both she and their children are suffering.
She understands “why women stay and die”, she complained about Police officers’ arrogant attitudes towards her. One officer asked her “if she expected him (abuser) to be locked up right away because he breached a protection order?” We are talking about someone who is a licensed firearm holder, someone who is a member of a uniformed force, someone who feels he is above the law.
The woman feels that, based on the way the officers had treated her, she wasn’t supposed to do anything, just sit and wait to be killed.
Well, we expected better from the members of the Guyana Police Force. Resources are being expended on training Police officers on the Domestic Violence Act and human rights violations, so that they can advise complainants, and help them.
We were elated when we first accompanied the victim to the Police station and saw an officer who was a part of the COP SQUAD 2000 training and other human rights-related training. We proudly told the victim that her matter would be dealt with professionally, and she should have no fear. She was relieved.
We recall contacting a senior officer on this matter when the victim felt that this matter, like many others before, would be swept under the proverbial table. We were given assurance that the matter would be treated with the utmost professionalism; and we believed that officer, and still do, because not all members of the Guyana Police Force have demonstrated these negative behaviours. However, if this is the attitude of those who are entrusted with protecting the citizens, how would domestic violence stop?
When citizens begin to lose faith in the system, it’s a serious development; let us fix the situation before it gets worse. We have faith in the Police Commissioner (Ag), the subject Minister, and our judicial system. We call on the relevant authorities to intervene. A woman must feel safe to report abuse and receive due justice, and not be fearful that, because her spouse is a member of one of the uniformed forces, she has to suffer and die at the hands of an abusive spouse.
When a victim feels that, because of the abuser’s job and his responsibilities, he will fight her like an enemy, it tells a story. Please don’t let this woman and mother be another domestic violence statistic.