Saba’s Domestic Violence Platform Saba and the Public Entity Saba on Monday evening, November 25, hosted a very well-attended event on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. The “Black & Blue, the Right Way” at the Sunny Valley Youth Center featured speeches, presentations and performances.
Undoubtedly the highlights of the evening were the story of local artist and domestic violence survivor Mary Thielman and the play by a group of talented volunteer actors that entertained the audience of more than 100 persons with the story that they brought on domestic violence with both dramatic and highly comical elements.
One in every three girls in the Caribbean will experience violence, mostly committed by someone they know. Domestic violence coordinator of the Pubic Entity Saba Marva Simmons came to the point right away in her welcoming words. Domestic violence comes in various forms: verbal, physical, financial and sexual. It does not occur in only one type of relation.
Domestic violence has a great impact on the victims, their families, on the entire community, and it happens everywhere. “Today, we come together to take a stand. There are many ways to break the vicious circle of domestic violence, starting with creating more awareness, and that is what we are doing tonight,” said Simmons, who encouraged people to support the victims, get them help. “We have to empower our girls and women, and educate, not only our girls but also our boys and men on how to deal with their emotions and feelings, broaden their ideas of masculinity and provide them with respectful and positive role models to shift their ideas of an ideal masculinity.”
Stand up, speak out
Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson in his opening remarks explained that domestic violence affected women and men of every race, religion, culture and status. “It is the abuse of power that one has over another person, and it comes in many ways. Domestic violence can end if each one of us play our part and lend a voice to what we see happening in domestic situations.
Domestic violence would end if each one of us becomes more aware of what we say and do to our wives, husbands, partners, girlfriends and boyfriends. Silence and failure to act will let this violence continue. We need to stand up, speak out and act.”
Wilson said that the Public Entity Saba would continue to bring awareness to this social problem in an effort to reduce and eventually end domestic violence. He stated that talks have been ongoing with the Dutch Government to set up a safe house on Saba.
After a light moment with a song by Zenaida Matthew, President of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights Adriana van Dooijeweert addressed the audience. She explained what her institute does to help protect human rights. She said that her organization was also there for the Caribbean Netherlands and that in the strategic plan 2020-2024, attention would be given to violence in particular against girls and women. She said that everywhere domestic violence was underreported to authorities and that, as a result, many cases remained unprosecuted. “Domestic violence is inhuman and against every human right. We are open to help, listen, mediate if necessary,” she said.
Van Dooijeweert’s words were followed by a solo performance by dance instructor Roxana Triana and a presentation by 15-year-old student and make-up artist Tyler Johnson of one of his carnival costumes. Domestic violence survivor Mary Thielman, with Marva Simmons at her side to read her story off paper, told the audience in a very personal account how the abuse by the father of her children started. She told the story of the many blows, the verbal abuse, the degrading of her person, the exerting of his power over her. Her thoughts were always on protecting her children.
Seek help, get out
Her message to other victims: pay attention to the signs, seek help and get out. Don’t blame yourself, forgive and move on. “You can get out. I got out after 15 years. I am a jewel. I have come a long way. I have started painting again and accomplished many things. I have become a new version of myself. I have kind, loving children and I am very proud of them.”
The “Black and Blue” play totally captured the audience. The theme of the play was intense, heavy gripping, yet the main actors, Etsel Lake, Tedisha Gordon, Alisia Wilson, Monique Wilson and Kemaul Lee, managed to give it a funny twist that had the audience laughing a lot. The story centered around “Zinger” (Tedisha Gordon), who was in an abusive relationship with “Wally” (Kemaul Lee), her friends “Pixy” (Monique Wilson) and “Trina” (Alisia Wilson) and, the star of the play, grandmother “Mabel” (Etsel Lake). The play highlighted the dynamics of an abusive relationship and the important role friends and family can play in speaking up when they see signs of possible domestic abuse, and supporting survivors of domestic violence to leave the relationship, in a safe way, whilst perpetrators of abuse are supported to get help.
Marva Simmons ended the night with the following words: “We must all do what we can to make the world safe for girls and young women. We all have a role to play in tackling domestic violence in a way that strengthens our families and strengthens our community.”