The death of Sherida Chickoorie earlier this week is tragic
not only because a life has been lost but because there
are so many others like her who could lose their lives in
A glance at the headlines over the past few months would
show the many women who have lost their lives to domestic
violence. It would be much the same if one were to look
at the headlines over the past few years.
But those remain the more high-profile incidents. They are
just a small sample of a problem that affects hundreds of
women and children in T&T.
Domestic violence is a problem that happens quietly. Deaths
like Ms Chickoories bring the problem into the public
domain but we soon forget about it as other situations arise.
T&T is in the midst of a crime wave. Murders have passed
300, but the emphasis remains on drug-related and gang-related
crimes. That approach is not without merit. Government,
rightly so, has had to focus its attention on curtailing
gang activity and drug trafficking. Those are two phenomena
that are international in reach and because of that extremely
difficult to deal with.
But what about the Sherida Chickoories out there? These
are women whose lives are either in danger or have already
been destroyed by domestic violence.
Tomorrow the country marks the UN International Day for
the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Tomorrow should
present an ideal opportunity for T&T to reflect on the
problem and learn more about how to deal with it. It should
also be a time when domestic violence is discussed openly.
One of the problems has been that while it remains on the
backburner, incidents, including deaths, continue. According
to the T&T Coalition Against Domestic Violence, there
were 490 reported assaults by beating in 2004. There were
12 murders resulting from domestic violence. In 2003, there
were 23 domestic violence-related deaths.
It is certain that the number of reported domestic violence
incidents is only a portion of those that actually take
We should ask ourselves how many more were not reported,
Kelli Coombs, an administrator at the Coalition, said earlier
The Coalition is trying to raise the profile of domestic
violence and is inviting other groups to observe the day
and add to the discussion. Part of that discussion will
no doubt be about the rights of women who are abused. As
Ms Coombs pointed out, one positive sign is that more women
are coming forward to report incidents.
Another facet of the discussion has to be the law. While
there is a Domestic Violence Act, the figures show that
it does not offer enough protection to abused women. For
example, out of 9,043 cases filed between August 2002 and
July 2003, some 6,829 were dismissed and only 1,979 were
granted protection orders.
Between August 2003 and March 2004, out of 5,946 cases filed,
4,458 were dismissed and 1,204 granted protection orders.
At the heart of any solution to the problem has to be ensuring
that women and children receive the fullest protection of
The problem of domestic violence is not unrelated to other
crimes. Different types of crime can mostly be traced back
to a breakdown in the family. Domestic violence is often
at the heart of that breakdown, contributing to the failure
of the family unit.
Stamping out domestic violence cannot, by itself, eradicate
other crimes but tackling it in an open way would go a long
way to stamping out a scourge that has damaged or destroyed
so many families and claimed so many lives, both directly
and collaterally, in such a tragic way.