That’s the advice to all victims of domestic violence from general manager of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) of Trinidad and Tobago Sabrina Mowlah-Baksh.
Mowlah-Baksh admitted it’s easier said than done. However, she assured victims the full support of her organisation, and called on families and communities to break the silence of physical and emotional abuse in their neighbourhoods.
“We understand how difficult it is for you to walk away. We understand how difficult it is for you to seek help because we understand the cycle of violence. We are here for you and we ask you to find a way to get out of the situation.
“Seek help. Do not stay silent. Silence is what makes the abuse possible, not only the silence of the victim but the silence of the families and the community which allows the perpetrator to get away with what that perpetrator does,” the empathetic advocate told the Express following the distribution of a special grant at the Spanish ambassador’s home on Wednesday, in Ellerslie Park, Maraval.
Ambassador Javier Carbajosa presented the CADV with a cheque for $54,750 to assist in their ongoing social work. The money was raised at the embassy’s Flamenco Christmas Concert: Gloria, which was held on December 4 at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain.
In need of more human resources
Mowlah-Baksh said contributions like the one from the Spanish government are critical to the upkeep of the daily operations of her non-governmental organisation (NGO).
“This kind of support is really critical to the work that we do. As an NGO, we rely on our own ability to raise funds. In our 32 years, we have not received a Government subvention,” she revealed.
More critically, the CADV needs the expertise of qualified counsellors to better meet the needs of victims, she said. At present, there are only two active counsellors providing advocacy and free counselling to over 80 clients per month.
“We are severely short-staffed and under-resourced. We have a volunteer bank and people can come forward. We need expertise in terms of persons who can offer counselling, we need help with fund raising, persons who can help us with our documentation, with grant writing. Those are the critical areas right now, along with people who will be active in their communities. They are the ones seeing the abuse. They know who the abusers are, and it’s only when we develop an adequate community response can we begin to tackle this,” she said.
Mowlah-Baksh also called on corporate T&T to take a more active role in protecting their employees through partnership with the CADV. She referenced the recent killing of Naiee Singh, 31, by her estranged husband, Roger Singh, 32, outside her Venture Credit Union workplace.
The murder-suicide sparked public outrage after it was revealed Naiee had a protection order in place.
“She (Naiee) did everything right. She got the protection order and was still murdered.
“Average of 25 are victims of domestic violence murder a year in T&T. We see women being murdered in their workplaces. Apart from their home, the workplace is where victims and survivors spend most of their time, so they need to feel safe. I think corporate sponsors have to acknowledge they have a role in keeping employees safe,” Mowlah-Baksh said.
Dedicate more police personnel
Mowlah-Baksh praised Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith on the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Gender-Based Violence Unit. She however cautioned that unless the unit is properly manned, it will prove ineffective.
“We are happy because we have lobbied for this for years, and we are happy to see the formation of the Gender-Based Violence Unit. However, we remain cautious because we know departments are set up and they too are under-resourced.
“So while we are happy to see the unit established and are prepared to work closely with them, we would like to see the requisite resources being given to the unit. They need to be given the capacity required to respond to issues like enforcing protection orders,” she reasoned.
The CADV head also called on members of the public to desist from engaging in “victim shaming and blaming”, and to begin to hold the perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their actions.
“We want to say to people out there, stop shaming and blaming the victims. It’s not about shifting the blame. We need to start holding the perpetrators to account.
“Make domestic violence everyone’s business. It’s not just ‘husband and wife business’ as we used to think. It’s everyone’s business,” she concluded emphatically.