Echoes of Delayed Responses: A Case for Human Rights in Barbados
Submitted by TK Butler-Intimate Partner Violence Survivor
Human Rights Advocate
Author & Activist @ Focus Barbados| Protect the Children
JUSTICE DELAYED is justice denied. Barbados is becoming notorious for pushing matters under the rug for years, backlogged court cases, people remanded to jail and cases that don’t get called before the court until several years later, witnesses to cases being asked to remember evidence from 10 years ago, and people walking around the same streets as perpetrators while awaiting their day in court.
In my case, Barbados failed to respond to a petition I submitted in June 2015 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by the deadline. This failure triggered the advancement of my petition to a formal case as stated in a letter mailed from the Commission to Jerome Walcott and myself on November 23, 2020:
The State in question did not submit a response to the petition during the admissibility phase. Therefore, the Commission has decided to open the case…
The details of my case against the government of Barbados as well as the specific abuses I’ve suffered are shared within my blog posts on WordPress @ Focus Barbados (est. 2015) and Instagram @quarantineipv (est. March 2020). I used Facebook as a platform for raising awareness back in 2012-2014. I was also interviewed by Naked Departure on her blog talk radio in 2014. I have been more than vocal.
I lived in the communities of Barbados as a tourist. My abusive relationship with Barbados began in 2012, lasted for 3 years which has lapsed into a total of 7 years and counting. After leaving Barbados in 2015, I began researching and educated myself about the plight of Bajan women and children in Barbados. It is through understanding their struggle that I became aware of the connection we all have to trauma, crime, justice and the delayed responses by relevant authorities in each of those areas. We are all survivors of systemic governmental neglect and abuse. These abusive relationships formed the basis of my view that there is a lack of empathy in Barbados that is cultural. The people hold dear their customary “respect and manners” but because of deep seated anger issues, this hospitality and politeness does not ease the rage of Bajan hostility. Through my conversations with Bajans, experiences of culture and observations of governmental leadership, I am as clear as ever that Sir Hilary Beckles assessments of Barbados as the First Black Slave Society, including all the barbaric and traumatic implications, is one of many contributing factors that plays a significant role in my struggle for freedom from gender based violence in Barbados.
I’ve learned that when I was being strangled and my abuser asked me: “ARE YOU GONNA SHUT UP? YES OR NO?”, he was echoing the sentiments and voices of a majority of the population. I, THE TOURIST, although supposedly “superior” in status due to my relationship to the tourism industry/economy, ended up being treated as many local women are treated every day. I was not given the world renowned “ROYAL TREATMENT” as a tourist. Instead, I experienced a major contributor to the normalization of abuse for Bajan women and children: THE CULTURE OF SILENCE. My research provided further evidence that emotional and verbal abuse in Barbados is rationalized as commonplace. The same hurt people who hurt people are working as teachers, lawyers, police, judges, and government officials.
According to Cynthia Forde:
There is no community that is not a part of the nonsense that has been going on. And the molesters are not just the ordinary men in the village, but we have police officers taking advantage, and according to what we know, there are teachers, priests, counsellors and caregivers who are taking advantage of young children…all people who know better, and because they have not been caught, they get away with it.Loop News Barbados
How can the cycle of abuse be broken when those who are supposed to help victims are also people who can’t be trusted? Who was gonna raise awareness if it’s normal to have your voice choked out of you? Who was gonna be an example that speaking out can bring healing where there’s no justice or closure? Who was gonna expose the wounds in order to justify the need for healing? Who was gonna ask someone out there somewhere if they dared care to listen to our screams for help? I asked others if they were willing. Everyone feared retaliation by employers and government. The rumours that Bajans are docile and content with suffering in silence became all the more real. No more delays. No more denials.
My case with the Commission is strong and justice will prevail. I would like acknowledgment from the government that my and OUR suffering is not in vain. The government must pledge itself to fix the broken systems, including those within the Child Care Board and Juvenile Justice circles, that enable the cycles of generational abuse and trauma that create abusive men and women. This must be done for the sake and well being of children. Every living adult in Barbados is called to task.
In this year’s throne speech, Dame Sandra Mason stated: “Barbados is now increasingly finding itself on international lists, including within the multilateral system, which identify us as having a poor human rights record.”
Need I say more?
In conclusion the lyrics of an old gospel spiritual by Mahalia Jackson will suffice:
If I can help somebody, as I travel along
If I can help somebody, with a word or song
If I can help somebody, from doing wrong
No, my living shall not be in vain No, my living shall not be in vain
No, my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I’m singing the song
You know, my living shall not be in vain.