Diaspora in north-east US launches campaign against domestic violence

Diaspora in north-east US launches campaign against domestic violence

Monday, March 09, 2020

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NEW YORK, United States — Amidst growing concern about the spate of violent attacks on women in Jamaica, the Northeast [United States] Diaspora has launched a public education campaign, aimed at encouraging victims to seek help and take action to protect themselves.

The campaign, entitled 'Seek and Speak. You are Not Weak', officially kicks off yesterday — International Women's Day — and was led by the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council Northeast Representative Dr Karren Dunkley, who has established a domestic violence committee to execute the initiative. The committee includes mental health professionals and women advocates, including Claudette Powell, Northeast Diaspora health sector coordinator and chair of the Jamaica Diaspora Health Taskforce; Lorraine Smith, co-coordinator, Northeast Health Sector; Sandra Smith, New York State chair; Michelle Tinglin, New Jersey State chair; Minna LaFortune, Society for the Advancement of the Caribbean Diaspora; Rev Marie Berbick, founder, Sisters United for Prayer Healing, Empowerment & Restoration (SUPHER) and Dr Asha Mwendo, psychologist.

“We have observed, for some time, what appears to be a growing trend of intimate partner violence against the women in Jamaica, and we believe that whereas we need effective policies to enforce the relevant laws to stem these kinds of attacks against our women, we can also play a proactive role by educating our women on how to help themselves,” Dr Dunkley said.

She noted that from as far back as 2008, studies of the prevalence of domestic violence within several Caribbean countries have indicated that Jamaica has one of the highest rates of intimate partner violence, (85.1 per cent) with over 45 per cent of the women in the Jamaican sample reporting that they had experienced physical abuse at the hands of their partners.

“Fifty per cent of Jamaica's adult population are women. This statistic means our women are at risk. The data is there, the facts are on the table, so the issue is how do we address them effectively?”Dr Dunkley continued. “With this campaign, we want our women to understand that they do not need to hide behind the feelings of shame and guilt that often come with being a victim of domestic abuse. We want them to know that they are not weak and helpless.

“Help is available and we want to encourage them to seek that help. Tell somebody what is happening so that the relevant individuals can intervene to save a life where possible.”

The Domestic Violence Committee will execute the campaign mainly via social media, utilising call to action videos, podcasts, and 24-hour hotlines in Jamaica, the 24-hour national domestic violence hotline in the United States and testimonies/success stories from survivors of domestic abuse.

Co-coordinator Smith said that the survivors' stories approach is a strategic one.

“When a woman who is in an abusive situation sees that someone else not only survived but is also thriving, she too, will be inspired to take action to get out of her situation. One woman's story can inspire a thousand, 10 thousand or a million! With this approach, we aim to create a domino effect that will save the lives of our women and, by extension, women across the world,” she stated.

Powell said the Northeast Diaspora would be working closely with the Government, corporate Jamaica, businesses in the Northeast USA, other advocacy groups, and NGOs to synchronise the efforts and to help realise the objectives of the call to action campaign.

“We require all hands on deck to do this. Even the men are playing a role in this campaign, some of whom are lending their voices to the effort,” Powell said.

The Northeast Diaspora has encouraged men and women in Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora who are victims of domestic violence to call the following hotlines to access resources and support:

In the United States 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE); and in Jamaica 876-870-2284; 876-773-7277; 876-929-2997 and 876-952-9533.

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