A partnership among international and local organizations allowed several seminars to be held on domestic violence as well as teen dating abuse during the month of November.
The seminar themed “Inspiring Change by Raising Voices,” took place on Nov. 25 on Abaco with an afternoon session formulated for high school students, while the evening seminar was open to the general public.
The organizations involved included the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, The Crisis Center Bahamas, Ministry of Social Services and Community Development, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force
This initiative is part of the broader Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP), which aims to build mutual trust between the police, the government, and Bahamian youth. The event will promote the development of relationships, families, and communities in which the voices of women and children are heard, their rights respected, and their lives free of violence. The RAPP effort falls under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
Myra McPhee of the U.S. Embassy introduced Sgt. 1100 Kenrick Brown of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and Annmarie Burrows-Smith of the Ministry of Education as the presenters. Burrows-Smith began with the seminar’s purpose and goals.
“The purpose of our meeting here today is to heighten awareness about this very serious topic, and even more than that, one of our desired outcome goals is that when you leave from here, you are inspired to be a change agent to make a difference in your community,” Burrows-Smith explained.
“So why is this forum important?” she questioned the audience. Replies ranged from raising awareness about domestic violence to allowing people to overcome the shame they feel of being abused in an effort to remove themselves from abusive situations.
The focus shifted slightly with an Ice Breaker exercise called My Perception/My Reality. During the exercise, participants viewed several photos and gave a description of what they saw based on their perceptions.
Next, participants were asked to act out a skit showing how violence is a learned behaviour. During the skit, the audience saw how abusive the father was to the mother, and as a result of the abusive home environment, the older sister became abusive to her younger sister. Burrows-Smith then gave a definition of domestic abuse before moving on.
Basic statistics were given and revealed that Caribbean islands have a higher rate of sexual violence. Additionally, out of 11 countries surveyed, a third of the women experience violence. During the session, the audience was asked to listen to a 911 call of a girl name Lisa then they were divided into three groups to answer questions about a case study of Lisa.
The participants also learned about the different types of violence like physical aggression, economic deprivation and isolation from friends and family. A list of victim, perpetrator, relationship and societal factors gave clear indications of abusive situations.
Burrows-Smith said that to the victims of abuse, the abnormal becomes normal. However, she said that the abuser is a victim too because they suffer from a skewed perception.
She urged the participants to build self-worth and empower themselves and others.
During his presentation, Sgt. Brown said that the Domestic Violence Protection Act of 2007 protects victims. Unfortunately, a high percentage of domestic violence cases result in homicides, and reported cases of violence are in the hundreds each year.
Nevertheless, the law is far-reaching when it comes to domestic abuse because if you are aware of anyone being abused and do not report it, you can be arrested and imprisoned for up to two years. He noted that victims can come from any age bracket, physical appearance or socio-economic status.
Sgt. Brown said that in hard economic times, they see more domestic violence cases. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic.
“Go out saying I am going to be a champion for what is right,” he admonished.
Burrows-Smith went a step further.
“Can you after attending this seminar do nothing?” she queried. “I challenge you not to stand by and do nothing.”