In the wake of two recent murders resulting from domestic violence, a former juvenile court magistrate has warned that a “violent thread” is running through Barbadian society as a whole.
Faith Marshall-Harris, who is also UNICEF’s children’s champion and a practising attorney-at-law, pointed out that as part of this negative thread, the country has also been witnessing a worrying increase in the incidence of violence among school children.
“I believe that the current spate of youth violence and school violence actually stems from domestic violence in this country,” Marshall-Harris said, while warning that too many people still see domestic violence in purely physical terms.
“A lot of our domestic violence which we don’t pay enough attention to, is actually in the form of emotional
abuse,” she cautioned following last month’s killing of 31-year-old police constable Shayne Welch whose life came to an abrupt and terrible end on March 26, when he was apparently stabbed to death outside his Kingsland, Christ Church home – the victim of a love triangle which turned fatally 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.
However, police are still on the hunt for the killer of 36-year-old Onica King, a Guyana-born nail technician, who was fatally stabbed earlier this month in her Swan Street, The City store, allegedly by her husband, and in the presence of their two young children, ages three and six.
A wanted bulletin has since been issued for 46-year old David King in connection with his wife’s murder.
In light of these incidents, Marshall-Harris, who was part of that team that amended the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 2016, expressed concern that despite the recent changes to the law, the level of domestic violence on the island has not abated.
“[In fact] if anything, it seems as if it has increased,” the former coroner said while warning that there was currently a hostile and dysfunctional interaction in many homes.
“And I think that where children grow up in an atmosphere where [violence] is the common thread – that is, the way people talk to each other, that is, how they treat each other – then eventually they take that to school; they take that to the playground.
“It is the norm. It is the kind of language that they are accustomed to,” she explained, while warning that that which occurs in the home also impacts the school environment.
“And I am going one other stage further. I think we do a lot of violence to each other outside of those spaces,” she told Barbados TODAY, explaining that “I think the way people talk to each other either on the streets, in the shop . . . Barbadians are dealing so rough with each other, that we often do violence to each others feelings”.
Marshall-Harris, who has written numerous papers on domestic violence and made recommendations to various entities, including Government, also drew a link between corporal punishment and domestic violence.
“I think that because of the volatility of our relationships, corporal punishment then seems to play a part. But I will tell you, I am not seeing it as the sole cause because the argument would come back to me that for years corporal punishment has been practised in Barbados and even more severe than this now, and that did not necessarily produce exaggerated levels of domestic violence.
“I am just saying, given the fact that our children are now impacted with so much violence around them, that [corporal punishment] feeds into that as well,” she said, while suggesting that more investment needed to be made in parenting campaigns and workshops.
In general, Marshall-Harris said the society could benefit from more counselling, “because people are not able to navigate the waters in a way that is peaceful.
“In other words we just have to seek the paths of peace. Therefore we need to employ our hundreds, even thousands of social workers that we have trained at great expense at UWI [University of the West Indies].
“We somehow have to get them into some form of organization, where people feel that ‘I can go to’ and sit down and talk about what ‘I am doing.’”
However, she said, funding was needed for such an initiative.