PORT OF SPAIN –– President and founder of Domestic Violence Survivor Reaching Out (DVSRO), Nester Flanders-Skeete, has joined in calling on Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to “apologize” for saying that women should choose their male companions more wisely.
Flanders-Skeete, 55, who ran from an abusive relationship after she narrowly escaped death, expressed surprise by Rowley’s statement on Monday when he said: “I am not in your bedroom. I am not in your choice of men,” which has sparked outraged by female activists and women’s groups.
“It really hurt me when I first heard it. I was taken aback. How could he [Rowley] come up with this statement? He needs to choose his words a little better.”
She said her interpretation of the PM’s comments was “that is your business . . . you make that choice . . . you deal with it”.
Flanders-Skeete called on Rowley to apologise stating that his remarks have opened fresh wounds for domestic violence survivors.
“Someone who is struggling with domestic violence and wants to come out… and to hear that from a prime minister it will open a wound and make you stand back.”
To compound matters, Flanders-Skeete said the unthinkable was done when a press release was issued hours later from the Office of the Prime Minister stating that his comments were misinterpreted.
“Don’t print something that somebody else wrote for you. You come and speak from your heart,” Flanders-Skeete said yesterday at her Chaguanas based office.
Now a domestic violence advocate, Flanders-Skeete said no man would enter a relationship showing his bad side.
“Women do not choose a man who is abusive, but sometimes find themselves in such a relationship. These men come sugar coated.”
After leaving her marital home where she was verbally and physically abused for years, Flanders-Skeete felt compelled to establish DVSRO to assist women in abusive relationships.
She said it is never easy for a victim to leave their home or abusive partner.
When she began encountering problems in her marriage, Flanders-Skeete said she turned to her parents as a safety net, but was sent back to her husband.
“The systems are not fully in place for someone to leave home. If your husband or partner is the breadwinner in the home . . . where do you go? Who will support you? Your family will only take you in for a limited time.”
Going to a shelter, Flanders-Skeete said, was equally problematic.
“To begin with, these shelters do not accept boy children at a certain age? Which woman would leave her home where she has all her children around her to go to a shelter where she could only have her girl children, not knowing where her boy child is? You see what is going on in the world, most women would stay home and take the jamming and pressure.”
Flanders-Skeete said not all shelters allow women to work, while 90 per cent of survivors were never counselled to overcome their pain and suffering.
Having had meetings with Rowley and the Gender Affairs Division on domestic violence matters, Flanders-Skeete said what was needed was more user-friendly shelters.
“We need organisations to be more involved and more advocates at the hospitals and police station. A lot of police do not even know their work. Police are sending clients to us when they we should be sending clients to the police. This should never be.”
Flanders-Skeete said other organisations assist to a certain point, leaving women vulnerable to men who do what they please.
She said the government needs to pay more attention to men who abused their female companions.
“You cannot fix the person who is being abused and leave the abuser because they go into another relationship with the same bad habits allowing the cycle to go on and on until someone is killed.”