UG professor touts setting up of Special Victims Unit
Tackling domestic violence…
By Leon Suseran
If Guyana is to make any headway in dealing with the scourge of domestic violence, it has to be tackled in more innovative and creative ways. This is the view of University of Guyana Berbice Campus head, Professor Daizal R. Samad.
Professor Samad noted that dozens of seminars, workshops, conferences, candle-light vigils have been held on the issue, and while this is laudable, it is not enough.
“Dozens have been hosted at the University of Guyana Berbice Campus in the last two and one half years since I became Director. These events were put on by various women’s groups, NGO’s, religious and social groups from within and without the country. I attended almost all of them, and spoke at many”.
“But one wonders if any of it made any difference at all. There is still domestic violence; and it is there with the kind of frequency that should alarm us all as citizens of Guyana”, he stated.
“I suppose this is why I have grown impatient with these exercises: that they seem to be ineffective. One of the reasons may be that we end up in a talk shop where we speak to each other and speak to the converted”.
Another reason, he stated, is that these seminar-type events veer between abstract academic talk on one hand, and self-dramatizing story-telling of individual suffering in such a way that concrete steps are not taken.
“I am not saying that they are useless and must stop. Not at all. They should and must continue, and they must be supported”, but they need to take “a different form”.
“A week ago, one of my neighbors punched his wife in the face. It was a thud of fist in flesh in the quiet mid-afternoon in Rose Hall Town. The following sound was a muffled cry as she sat in the hammock in a posture of defeat and hurt. The husband hovered, still aggressive, over the sobbing woman. Then his posture changed to one of apology and comfort. I was sitting with a friend, and he was visibly upset, tempted, I think to go across and administer a sound thrashing upon the man”.
The debate about this issue, he said, is important since it demonstrates that some kind of academic thought is there. What does he therefore recommend? “Short TV programs may be one way.
Three people: a victim, a law enforcement official and a qualified social worker, for instance. With a moderator who is prepared to ask tough but empathetic questions. Once per week at pre-determined times”.
But he added that we also need to do the research and ask questions like: Why does this happen? Where does it happen? Under what conditions (economic, behavioral, alcohol-induced temper)? With what frequency? With what repetition? With what consequences (to the perpetrator, the victim, the children)? What is the role of the social worker and how effective are they? What are the roles of law enforcement (police and prosecutors)? What are the steps that must be taken in the event of domestic violence? What provisions are in place for victims of domestic violence and child abuse?
“I would suggest that a special unit be created in the Guyana Police Force—a Special Victims Unit of specially trained policemen and policewomen. I would also suggest the establishment of fully supported Transition Houses (to my knowledge, there is only one in operation in Berbice, in New Amsterdam—and that gets no state funding.
There is one being built by a religious organization in Port Mourant). Of course, we need better training for the cops and for prosecutors so that there can be no escape for perpetrators. Also, UG needs to have more hands-on training for people doing degrees in Social Work (and every other discipline, for that matter)”.
Prof Samad said that it seems that Guyana, as a whole, has lost restraint.
“We resort to violent language and violent behavior at any small thing. You simply have to read and listen to see and hear it, the loudness, the aggression. We lack composure and self-control not only in our homes but also at our job places and in public. Loud and aggressive behavior is the norm now. And we will continue to be this way if there continues to be little or no consequence for our lack of self-control”.
The UGBC Director stated that the noises that we hear coming from public events and from vehicles—noise that people call music—are part of this disease. He added, too, that the noise around us today is so great that “even the birds have fled”.