In light of last Saturday’s fatal stabbing of 36-year-old Onica King, which occurred in the middle of Bridgetown, human right activist Felicia Dujon is calling on Barbadians to be their sister’s keeper and to intervene where possible to provide assistance to victims.
“Our women are being terrorized, whether it be psychologically, financially or physically and we have been seeing an increase in terms of domestic violence resulting in fatalities,” Dujon said while questioning the role of the bystander and the average citizen in instances such as the one which led to King’s untimely demise.
“Are we going to stay and allow a person to abuse another and not step in? We tend not to want to intervene, but it is very disturbing as women to know that not even in public space you are protected,” she said after King, a nail technician, was fatally stabbed in her Swan Street store, allegedly by her husband, and in the presence of their two young children, ages three and six.
The incident occurred just over two weeks after a 31-year old police constable, Shayne Welch, lost his life in an equally tragic incident of domestic violence in which the husband of his alleged lover brutally sought revenge, in a love triangle that turned very ugly.
Aaplon Ismael Parris, of Taitt Road, Britton’s Hill, St Michael, the 26-year-old husband of the female police officer believed to have been having an affair with Welch, has since been charged with the constable’s murder.
Parris has also pleaded guilty to malicious communication, and was jailed for three months, for filming and distributing via social media, an unsavoury video of his wife at the height of the bitter fallout.
While stressing the need for public advocacy, St Lucia-born Dujon, a gender justice adviser whose focus is human rights, advocacy for women, youth and family in the Caribbean region, argued that instances of domestic violence had evolved over the years to the point where they could now be described as “intimate terrorism”, which underscored the need for action by society to protect the victims.
“The majority of our victims who are primarily female believe the law is still inadequate because when threats are being made to these women and they report them to the police they are still not taken seriously,” the human rights advocate said.
“We must ensure women have the right to live in an environment that is free from violence and the fear of violence. Women must be able to leave a home or a relationship at any time without fear of their lives,” she added.
Dujon also called on society to stop blaming the victim, particularly since “we have women who are more afraid of what people would say about her, than speaking out.
“As a society the victim-blaming must stop. We have to ensure that when our victims come to us their issues are not used for gossip,” she said, while stressing that “we must change the way we think about domestic violence as it is no longer a private matter, not when the consequences are seen in the public space. We must not encourage this culture of domestic violence.”