'When a man kills his wife it says abuse has been happening all along'

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'When a man kills his wife it says abuse has been happening all along'

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — Though most of the tributes were done in English, the language of her adopted homeland, it was “No llores si me amas…” (Don't cry if you love me),, read passionately in her native tongue, that seemed to move most of the many people who gathered here last Thursday to remember slain Cuban-born nurse, Arianna Taylor-Israel.


The poem, a tribute Saint Augustin wrote his mother, and roughly translated into English, begins: “If you knew the gift of God and what heaven is!/If you could hear the song of the angels and see me in their midst!”


Neuricel Fonseca, a member of the Cuban medical brigade in St Vincent and the Grenadines, read the words with the measured pace and tone that one might anticipate at such an event.
She wept as she recited “No llores si me amas…” at Thursday's vigil.


But it was not long before she let loose the passion often associated with Latin American culture. And by the time she read the 10th and 11th lines of the poem — Believe me; When death comes to break the bonds,/as he has broken the ones that chained me — Fonseca's eyes began to swell, reflecting the light from the video cameras which fully illuminated her face amidst the glow of many lighted candles.


The line, “Wipe away your tears and do not cry if you love me…”, came as she seemed to let loose pent-up emotions as she continued, “Whatever we were for each other, we still are. Death is nothing. I have simply transitioned to the other side. I am still I and you are still you.”


The poem was read at a car park in the capital where nurses in their uniforms, doctors devoid of their white coats, and hundreds of persons from various walks of life, many wearing orange in protest against violence against women, gathered in the nation's capital to remember “Nurse Taylor”, who was gunned down in the city one week earlier.


On the afternoon of January 30, Taylor's elder son was among students at the St Martin's Secondary School (SMSS) in Kingstown Park who went outside after hearing the sound of gunfire. He might never have imagined that the person he would find barely clinging to life was his 44-year-old mother.


Police are alleging that Taylor-Israel's husband, Mitch Israel, 57, mortally wounded her when he allegedly shot her multiple times outside his alma mater on the day when she served him with a petition of divorce.


She died about an hour later at Milton Cato Memorial Hospital — her workplace — where she was taken for medical attention. Her husband of 15 years has been charged with murder in connection with her death.


One week later, many people gathered at SMSS and later made their way in a candlelight march through the city to the car park. There, they sang in both Spanish and English, quoted scripture, prayed, and paid tribute to the slain nurse.


The vigil emphasised that victims of domestic abuse do not have particular facial features or expressions.


In her welcome address, Neeka Anderson-Isaacs, the communication officer in the Ministry of Health, quoted from the Bible in which God promised to heal the land if His people humble themselves, pray and turn from their wicked ways.


“Right now, I want every one of us to look inward because all of us have wicked ways that we need to turn from. And when we look inwards then we need to look up and we need to ask for forgiveness, and then we need to turn to God so that He can hear our prayers and He can heal our land,” she said, tears flowing down her face, Psychologist Dr Jozelle Miller told the crowd that nothing in life prepares a person for the traumatic experience of a violent crime, especially when it is committed against a colleague and friend.


“As a ministry, we mourn; the nursing fraternity grieves deeply. As a woman, the pain is indescribable,” Miller said, adding that she believes there are no words which can express the anguish felt.


“But even amidst our pain, we stand today in hope, in solidarity, praying that justice, firstly, will be served and, most importantly, that healing will take place, allowing each and every one of us to exhibit the virtues of strength in adversity, patience and tolerance as buffer[s]to the unkindness of this life.”


The psychologist referred to Psalms 46:1, which says God “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”.


Miller said she visualised Taylor-Israel's beautiful smile “that permeated the darkest of situations because now, in hindsight, I am mindful that many times, in an effort to make it through her day, to perform her job with excellence, she mastered the art of wearing her beautiful smile, where probably there should have been a frown or a tear”.


The psychologist said there are many questions without answers, and this could cause sorrow to linger longer. But she noted “God is still God, and he is still in control”.


In answering the questions of how to move on from the tragedy, Miller urged those attending the vigil not to allow hate to win.


“Love conquers all. Love will continue to win, even in death, because God is love and our faith tells us that He reigns supreme tha conquered death and the grave,” she said, adding that there is reason to be hopeful.


Parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Education, Debbie Charles said that Taylor-Israel's death suggests that she had been a victim of abuse.


“I want also for us to think of other persons who are suffering from abuse at home, abuse at the workplace, abuse in the community, because when a man picks up a gun and kills his wife, it is saying that abuse has been happening all along. It didn't start on Thursday last,” Charles said.


She asked the crowd what the face of an abused woman looks like.


“It looked like Taylor's — a beautiful smile,” she said, adding that most people walk around with hurt and think they can find someone who is quailed to help.


“And I'm saying to us women, I'm saying to us girls — do not allow your situation to overwhelm you. Do not sit and think that there's no one who cares. There are persons out there who care. You only have to look close enough to find someone in whom you can confide, someone who can help you through your difficult times,” Charles said, noting that Taylor-Israel was among the first batch of Cuban nurses who came here amidst a serious shortage in 2002 and lived near her (Charles') mother in Montrose.


“So it pains me because I have had a relationship with this woman,” the legislator told the gathering while encouraging them to be resolute even as they are saddened.


“We have to think of how we are going to assist because crime is not just for the Government…” she said, adding that everyone must play their role.


“Let us do what it takes to ensure that the scourges of violence against our women, against our girls, in particular, ends with this one. Let us make this — Taylor's death — not in vain so that each of you, each of us, will know what our responsibility is as of tonight and we work to ensure that violence against women, against our girls, ends as a result of this one,” Charles said.
Health Minister Luke Browne said that the vigil was held to celebrate Taylor-Israel's memory and to say her death was not in vain.


“Instead of cursing the darkness, we decided to rally in our numbers to light a candle and, simultaneously, to send a message about what we find to be acceptable in our society and what we find to be unacceptable, and the kind of country that we are fighting to create.”


After Taylor's death, it emerged that she made at least three visits to Questelles Police Station during the last five days of her life telling them her husband, who had a licensed firearm, was threatening to kill her.


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