On the evening of August 25 a group of concerned citizens all sporting some form of orange attire gathered in the Government Complex, Marsh Harbour, for the first ‘Abaco is Orange’ symposium geared towards fighting violence against women and children. Theme for the evening was “Voices That Should Be Heard” and six inspirational speakers shed much-needed light on this very serious problem. The programme opened with a welcome by organiser Yasmin Glinton, prayer by Rev Charles Carey, opening remarks by Daria Nixon and the singing of the National Anthem.
Sgt Smith headed the list of speakers, standing in for Superintendent Noel Curry who was unable to be present. Sgt Smith was well qualified to speak at this gathering since she has been a member of the Urban Renewal team in Nassau for 18 years and in Abaco for the past four years. She has a broad knowledge of crimes that women and children can face and stated that these crimes are often perpetrated by someone the person knows and so they do not want to come out and report the crime.
She reported that in recent years legislations have been passed to give women and children more rights, one of which is the fact that it has been established that man will be charged for committing rape on his wife.
“There is a substantial amount of violence on Abaco against women and children but it can be fixed if all are willing to be their brother’s keeper and report to relevant authorities. Calls can be made anonymously,” stated Sgt. Smith.
Vernelle Swain who now works at the Christian Counselling Centre in Marsh Harbour, has had many years of experience working in Missouri and Tennessee with abused and neglected children and has seen the emotional and physical effects of violence on women and children. She stated the stunning facts that one in four girls and one in five boys suffer sexual abuse and one in three women are abused and that they usually know the abuser.
Worldwide a child is abused every 10 seconds and it is very prevalent in our community. “We see kids acting out and we criticize them but we must ask why are they doing it? Sometimes we get lost in the secondary symptoms of depression, sexual dysfunction, hyper-sexuality or frigidity, addiction, compulsion, eating and sleeping disorders, low self-esteem, self-destructiveness and post-traumatic stress disorder. We must not pass judgment too fast because these are symptoms of something else that is going on and victims can become offenders if they do not get help. Many people are in denial and probably feel powerless and betrayed,” she stated.
Tony Burrows a.k.a. Rebel Tony gave a short but meaningful and uplifting talk on ‘Why we should not abuse our women.’
“Women are number one,” he stated. “They are our first teacher, our first pastors, our first friends, and first security and our first love. A mother’s love is irreplaceable. They are our strength, they are built to carry the load and bear pain and they add beauty to everything. My charge to you is ‘be strong like a rock.’”
Noelle Nichols and her mother Donna flew in from Nassau to speak at the meeting. Noelle is an activist, working on behalf of important issues for women and who has recently helped co-found an organisation for the protection of women. Her goal at this meeting was to help people understand the four questions in the proposed upcoming Referendum.
She stated that people were concerned that like the former referendum on gaming, the outcome of this constitutional referendum could be ignored. However she stated that the results of this referendum cannot be ignored because it involves our Constitution which represents the supreme law of the Bahamas.
“This is a very important process which is binding and if passed will become the new law of The Bahamas,” she stated.
Ms. Nichols urged everyone to vote in the upcoming referendum because; “Even if you do not participate by voting you will be impacting its outcome. One of the central issues is equality. The first three questions involve citizenship issues but the fourth is the one which people are most concerned about fearing that it could result in the legalization of same-sex marriage. However this will not be the case because the issue states that one cannot discriminate on the basis of sex which means a man or a woman, it does mention sexual orientation.”
Dr. George Charite, Director of the Integrated Medical Centre, gave a very eye opening and detailed talk accompanied with a PowerPoint presentation in which he detailed all the many types of abuse to women and children which, unfortunately, are too many to list here.
He opened by stating that there are international laws to protect women and children and that any sexual, physical or emotional abuse must be reported.
“Women and children are often in greater danger in the place where they should be safest which is the home and often the person being abused does not know any different,” he said. Abuse has many health consequences which include:
Mental health problems including depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and self-mutilation.
Fatal outcomes in which people take their own life.
He closed with the following acronym for abuse:
Until it happens
Suffering will not
Closing speaker, Donna Nichols, wrapped up by saying; “We have failed our children. There would not be so many problems today if there were not so many dysfunctional relationships. Violence against women and children is very real and relevant. The motivation for abuse is domination and control and the perpetrators use purposeful manipulation. Victims should know the resources available to help them and people must learn how to reach out to victims. Responsibility must be put on the perpetrators and we must help our children not to be judgmental. Young people often appear to be rude and unruly but this may be to hide some deep distress which is going on within them. ”
Both Dr. Charite and Mrs. Nichols stated that a victim will normally report abuse seven times before they will actually get out of that abusive relationship. Finally she told the audience that everyone is involved because people are either a victim, a perpetrator or a bystander.
‘Abaco Is Orange’ is a non-profit organization founded in August 2014 that believes we are our brothers’ keeper. The organization is geared towards creating a platform that brings to light the violence that women and children suffer throughout the Abacos. Yasmin Glinton, organizer of the event, stated in the program that no individual has the luxury of stating that they have not encountered someone that has suffered some form of violence.
“These individuals are present in our family, schools, workplaces and churches. They are our friends, they are our loved ones, they are strangers needing someone to take a stand on their behalf. We work with the understanding that helping those that have been subjected to violence today creates a society that will better protect individuals in the future.”