Lessen The Prevalence Of Abuse In Our Country

November 18, 2021 | 1 Comment

Tammy Richardson-Augustus recently collaborated with One Love Foundation to host the One Love Student Leadership Summit at Government House, and she noted that “if everyone who is paying attention to the headlines now decide to take strong and decisive action, we could lessen the prevalence of relationship abuse in our country.”

A spokesperson said, “Over the last 18 months, Covid-19 laid bare the gaps in Bermuda’s infrastructure and amplified the need to address the pervasive public health problem of abuse.

“In an effort to take action against abuse and be part of the solution, Tammy L Richardson-Augustus initiated a collaboration with One Love Foundation.

“Ms Richardson-Augustus, together with her nimble team of Jana Swainson-Roberts and Gemma Godfrey, recently hosted a three-day inaugural One Love Student Leadership Summit, staged at Government House.

“A cohort of 30 students aged 14 to 22 from public and private schools and universities attended the summit. Among their lessons were the 10 signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, how to communicate boundaries, how to practice consent, how to help a friend experiencing abuse, and how to safely navigate break-ups.

“The curated list of speakers and dignitaries at the inaugural Summit included: Her Excellency, The Deputy Governor, The Honorable Premier, Puisne Judge Justice Nicole Stoneham, Patrice Madeiros Domestic Violence Liaison Officer at the Bermuda Police Service, Jevon Williams Chairman of The Coalition for Protection of Children, Tawanna Tannock immediate past chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Tiffanne Thomas of Transitional Community Services, Laurie Shiell of the Centre Against Abuse, Dr Sandy DeSilva of the Family Centre, Dany Pen of Raleigh International, and Tina Laws of the Women’s Resource Centre.”

Ms Richardson-Augustus, also the first Bermudian certified facilitator and ambassador of One Love Foundation, said, “We reaffirm to victims and survivors of abuse that we care deeply and are committed to use every avenue available to us to champion their cause”.

Katie Hood, One Love Foundation CEO, said, “No one deserves to be abused and murdered, let alone at the hands of someone you think loves you.”

The spokesperson said, “In the US, over 1 in 3 women, nearly 1 in 3 men, and 1 in 2 trans or nonbinary people will be in an abusive relationship in their lifetimes. Black women are disproportionally impacted — 40% will face domestic violence in their lifetimes. These numbers are stark and make it crystal clear: relationship abuse is a major crisis we cannot ignore.”

Ms. Hood said, “Too many of us are riveted when a story makes the front page, but when the news fades, we go back to our lives. We often ignore, diminish or miss the early signs of unhealthy behaviors.”

Ms. Richardson-Augustus said, “If everyone who is paying attention to the headlines now decide to take strong and decisive action, we could lessen the prevalence of relationship abuse in our country.

“We believe strongly that we must stop othering the issue. Abuse is not a problem that impacts someone else, somewhere else — it’s something all of us have seen or personally experienced. We must stop thinking of it as a domestic issue or a women’s issue – it’s a community issue.”

The spokesperson said, “Solving the problem requires all of us to recognise our personal connection to the issue and our stake in solving it. Ms Richardson-Augustus underscores how we can prevent future tragedies:

  • “Legislative changes are necessary to modernize our law, allow the Crown to proceed with cases of domestic abuse in which a victim doesn’t wish to prosecute, broaden the range of abusive behaviours recognized beyond physical abuse.
  • “All statutes and other normative rules must be rationally interpreted and enforced by institutions of integrity who themselves are expected to comply with them. At a minimum, all judges must be properly trained, appointed and sworn in accordance with mandatory provisions of the Constitution.
  • “Remove systemic barriers to court access [including cost and evidentiary issues] which foster chronic underreporting and attrition. In the UK, 58% of the abuse cases end with retractions due to a lack of faith in the judicial process, wanting to move on with their lives and protracted delays [as evidenced in 'Understanding Court Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse Report June 2021' by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner].
  • “Implement special measures [e.g. assigning victim advocates and prohibitions on abusers cross examining victims] in court hearings to mitigate risks posed by perpetrators gaming the system or using the court process to exert further coercive control over victims.
  • “Mandate domestic violence training for all police officers on the dynamics of abuse. Law enforcement play a pivotal role in the legal systems response to abuse.
  • “Reduce silos between the family and criminal justice system to ensure that survivors have an integrated approach and are not retraumatized by having to appear in multiple courts with the attendant time, expense and anxiety.
  • “Sharpen focus on the paramount wellbeing of children. The incidents of domestic abuse in cases affecting children is considerably higher than in the general population, with allegations of findings in abuse in samples of UK child arrangement and access cases ranging from 49% – 62%. Our ‘pro contact culture’ may conflict with the objective of protecting children from harm and too often leads to abuse being marginalised [PDF here].
  • “Advocate for relationship health education in school curriculums to reduce the pipeline of people who experience abuse.
  • “Continue a multi-agency approach. Charities undertaking critical work in the area of abuse have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic in terms of reduced donations and a surge in demand for services. This further illuminated the need for dedicated multi-agency support.
  • “Collect robust and accurate data to enhance our understanding of the magnitude of the social problem and better inform future policy.

“The health of the community is a direct result of the quality of our relationship. Abuse is a root cause problem; by tackling abuse we can have a positive impact on downstream issues such as substance abuse, suicide ideation, homelessness, mental health and gang violence.”

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  1. Loquat tree says:

    Well said. Some great suggestions for moving this forward.

    An addition might be mandatory, specialized ‘treatment’, including relevant courses for all offenders. Also ongoing longer or continuing programs for repeat offenders, so there is some hope of preventing future offences. To include the expanded range of abusive behaviors mentioned above.

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