Audio | Senate Q&A On Teen Abuse Statement

February 24, 2022 | 15 Comments

Senators exchanged words after a statement on Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, with Senator Lindsay Simmons saying she was “appalled” by a comment made by Senator Marcus Jones.

“I am not saying they deserve the bad abuse, they shouldn’t, we all agree with that,” OBA Senator Marcus Jones said.

“But I do believe that our young people are inviting this type of behaviour because they are ignorantly getting on social media and putting themselves up, and putting themselves in harm’s way.”

Senator Jones then asked what programmes are in place to assist.

“First of all, I would like to disagree with you,” PLP Senator Lindsay Simmons said in response. “I don’t think that anybody is inviting,” and she later added that she was “appalled by the comment from my Senate colleague.”

Senator Jones later said he said he was not saying “bad or uneducated behaviour” is actually asking for abuse, and Senator Simmons replied that she was “only going by what he said,” and she sticks by what she said.

For better context, please listen to the longer extract of part of the Q&A

In her statement, Senator Simmons — who is the Junior Minister of Social Development and Seniors — said, “While the month is targeted towards teens, it is important that all adults in our community who have healthy interactions with teens not limited to parents and guardians, lead the charge of having conversations with them on dating abuse.

“These conversations should include but not be limited to various aspects of teen dating such as what respect in a relationship looks/feels like; red flags leading to an abusive relationship or while in an abusive relationship; and helping agencies in our community.

“I am imploring members of our community to start or continue the discussions on the importance of incorporating respect in relationships either it be incorporated in the curriculum for schools, youth activities and sports, and youth groups.”

Update 4.14pm: Marcus Jones has resigned from the Senate. Details here.

The Junior Minister’s full statement follows below:

Madam President, I rise today to inform Members of the Senate and the general public that February is Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. I would also like to take this opportunity to share what the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors has done in support of this initiative. While the month is targeted towards teens, it is important that all adults in our community who have healthy interactions with teens not limited to parents and guardians, lead the charge of having conversations with them on dating abuse. These conversations should include but not be limited to various aspects of teen dating such as what respect in a relationship looks/feels like; red flags leading to an abusive relationship or while in an abusive relationship; and helping agencies in our community.

Madam President, Bermuda is witnessing an increase in abusive relationships not only amongst adults, but with our teens. There has been a surge in reports from middle and high schools; and youth housing facilities.

Madam President, by working together there is an opportunity for the country to make a difference now through what is required to mitigate domestic violence among teens. It is intended that resources such as education and awareness campaigns; school and community forums implemented specifically for teens will potentially have a direct impact on reducing the number of adults in abusive relationships in the future.

Madam President, as Members of the Senate it is incumbent upon us as leaders of this country and all adults involved with children’s activities to set a precedence for our youth. Through training and awareness on red flags, we can teach them how to respond appropriately to abusive behaviours to reduce these harmful relationships.

Madam President, common red flags of abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • demands made by a partner for personal/private information such as password to access devices and/or social media accounts etc.;
  • name calling or intimidating behavior;
  • apologetic behavior or actions after a physical or verbal altercation;
  • being afraid to speak their mind or go against their partner because it will cause an argument; and
  • a person threatens to leave if their partner doesn’t follow their orders.

Madam President, too often teens mistake these warning signs also referred to as red flags as a form of love. Adults can assist them with understanding that these red flags are key warnings to behaviours that should not be tolerated such as jealousy, control, manipulation, and isolation. This Government encourages healthy conversations with our young people on the topics of teen dating abuse and awareness, which provides them with an opportunity to ask questions, feel less vulnerable, supported and safe.

Madam President, also discussions on responding appropriately to these red flag warnings is critical to creating boundaries to stop these unwanted behaviours, and a way to support teens to build up the courage to leave an abusive relationship.

Madam President, in support of Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month the Ministry for Social Development and Seniors hosted and facilitated a virtual forum entitled “Domestic Violence Awareness”. The panel consisted of Cindy Clarke, the Director of Public Prosecutions; Laurie Shiell, Executive Director of Centre Against Abuse; Tina Laws, Executive Director of Women’s Resource Centre; and Susan Adhemar, a Chartered Counselling Psychologist and myself.

Madam President, the in-depth interactive conversation that lasted approximately ninety (90) minutes was aired on CITV and watched by thousands of viewers on Facebook. During the conversation, I shared my personal experience of domestic abuse, and how I overlooked the warning signs of abuse. Honourable Tinee Furbert, JP, MP, Minister of Social Development and Seniors received numerous positive feedback as a result of this forum. I would to take this opportunity to thank the panelist for their time; and valuable insight and expertise on domestic abuse.

Madam President, I am imploring members of our community to start or continue the discussions on the importance of incorporating respect in relationships either it be incorporated in the curriculum for schools, youth activities and sports, and youth groups.

Madam President, additionally to the services provided by the Department of Child and Family Services in supporting healthy teen relationships there are organizations in Bermuda that advocate and ensure teens have access to information and services that support healthy relationships. These support systems are:

  • School Counsellors;
  • The Family Centre;
  • Teen Services;
  • Coalition for the Protection of Children; and
  • Centre Against Abuse.

Madam President, I want to take this opportunity to highlight and thank Tammy L. Richardson-Augustus JP, a law partner who took the initiative to collaborate with the US non-profit One Love Foundation. One Love Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that was created in 2010 in memory of Yeardley Love, a 22-year old University of Virginia senior who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend just weeks before her graduation that same year.

Madam President, One Love Foundation aims to end relationship abuse by providing the tools, educational resources and workshops to empower young people with the knowledge to identify and avoid abusive relationships. The organization has educated nearly 1.7 million young people through workshops, both in-person and virtually.

Madam President, in July 2021, Ms. Richardson-Augustus organized an inaugural event in partnership with One Love Foundation. The 3-day Student Leadership Summit had thirty student participants aged 14 to 22 from public and private school; and universities. Participants learned about the ten signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships, how to identify and avoid abuse and gained leadership skills to become youth ambassadors.

Madam President, the Government is committed in observing February as Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month on an annual basis and encourages all sectors of our community to do the same. Although, one month a year has been designated to teen dating abuse awareness and prevention the Government supports ongoing initiatives that aims to continue such conversations with teens throughout the year.

Madam President, Members of the Senate and Bermuda’s adults as a collective we must remember that teens observe our actions daily regardless if they are positive or negative. We must be committed in doing our part daily to lay and preserve the foundations of a healthy community by having, maintaining and encouraging healthy relationships. Our youth turn to us for guidance that supports healthy interactions, which ultimately fosters healthy adult relationships in our community.

Thank you, Madam President!

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Comments (15)

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  1. Jasmine says:

    Well done Senator Simmons,
    I cannot believe that those words would come out of a sitting Senator’s mouth. He should be removed over those comments. It is people like him that justify why children are abused. If a girl wears a short shirt she deserves to be abused. Save it! We need to teach men to respect ladies no matter what.

  2. Abby says:

    WOW! Do the right thing and hand in your resignation. You should not be allowed in the Senate anymore. SCARS needs to help to call for his removal. Stick to your guns Senator Simons. I was appalled after listening to this. Marcus Jones should not have the name Senator in front of his name. Bring Dwayne Robinson back. OBA do the right thing and remove him. He is appointed and Rolfe was removed for having the same feelings.

    Go bye Marcus.

  3. watching says:

    Senator Jones should be embarrassed for these comments. To place or imply the blame is on the teens is unacceptable.
    Maybe a resignation should be in the works. This isn’t the first time he has put his foot in his mouth in the Senate.

  4. Adam says:

    As a father I am appalled by these comments made by Senator Jones. When Senator Simmons pointed it out he still tried to defend himself. We need to do better as a Country. If he is allowed to hold his appointment I have lost any faith in the OBA. Most are parents and this should not be taken lightly. I call for his resignation as well. Replace him with someone respectful and hold out youths up. No room in politics for this nonsense.

  5. question says:

    He’s just saying the users of social media should take some responsibility for their own actions. I can’t see what is wrong with it.

    • Janice says:

      That is not what he was saying. Our young people are inviting this type of behavior. Wrong wrong wrong for anyone to say, let alone a sitting Senator. He needs to step down.

      • sandgrownan says:

        Yeah, gotta disagree on this one, it’s like blaming a rape victim for wearing provocative clothes. He should know better.

        • Question says:

          He specifically said he was “not saying they deserve the bad abuse, they shouldn’t, we all agree with that.”
          The use of the term “inviting” was probably not the best word, but I think it was clear what he was getting at.
          Most of the measures to combat this type of thing involve making people aware of how they’re putting themselves in harm’s way. That isn’t blaming the victim, it’s just a pragmatic way of combating the problem.

      • question says:

        The advice that anyone would give young people is to avoid putting themselves in a position where they can be victimised on social media. I don’t see how that differs from what he was saying.
        Of course, these days everyone wants to be ‘outraged’ at everything.

        • Toodle-oo says:

          I’m glad that you can see it too .
          Contrary to what all the ‘offended’ want to believe (or misinterpret) he never said that people that engage in this ‘get what they deserve’.
          He , like many others , believe it’s unhealthy behavior that could potentially set up young ones to end up in a bad place.

        • Elsie says:

          Anyone who thinks what he said was ok needs to grow up. Marcus is out of line. Listen to what he said. Outraged!

          Resign Mr. Jones!

  6. Been There says:

    I am so angry at Mr. Jones. He was out of line. I am a parent of 2 girls and I am glad that we have positive people like Mrs. Simmons in the Senate. His words should be retracted.

  7. Janice Battersbee says:

    When one of my daughter’s friends came into her teenaged years, she began to change her way of dressing…choosing more risqué clothing. I asked her if she was ready to handle the attention that she would get for that clothing. She wasn’t out seeking it, but the consequences for her way of dressing would bring that attention regardless. I understand Senator Jones’s comments as he was not stating that there was an intentional seeking of abusive behavior, but there are consequences for certain ways that young people are depicting themselves on social media and seeking if there are means to teach them how to present themselves more appropriately.

    I’ve known Senator Jones all my life and I understand his heart and motivation.

    His use of the word “inviting” meant the CONSEQUENCES of behavior – NOT intentionally seeking inappropriate attention.

    • Mother Duck says:

      You can’t be serious. Did you listen to everything he said. You might know him but his words are not to be taken lightly. As Senator Simmons said we need to educated our children. She is correct that it should not matter if someone dresses inappropriate they should not be abused. Opposition Simons did the right thing in accepting his resignation. Marcus poor choice of words should have been retracted on Wednesday but he has been and continues to be cocky. I for one am glad he was removed. He should have agree with the statement read by Senator Simmons and moved on. Always looking to sound relevant. The statement should have been welcomed that the department is highlighting and looking to do more to protect our children.
      This is the same man that is a Trump Supporter. He is not to be trusted.

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