Please help me get my son back

Jamaican woman seeks Govt's help, claims husband has her boy in India

BY SHANICA BLAIR
Observer reporter
blairs@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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A St Elizabeth woman is asking the Government to help her get her son back from her husband of 11 years who, she said, sold their assets, moved back to his native India, and has alienated her from her nine-year-old son after she asked for a divorce.

Sheffanesse Brown, 32, from Maggotty, said she finally found the courage to part ways with her husband after visiting his family in Mumbai, India and seeing first-hand how abusive her father-in-law was towards her mother-in-law.

“All I could think about was, that was going to be me when I get older,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer.

Brown, who does not want her current address to be disclosed, said she is at her wits' end because her husband has prevented her from contacting or seeing her son, who she last saw in April 2017.

According to Brown, she has been trying to get back her son ever since, but several Jamaican lawyers have told her that they are unable to help because Jamaica has no jurisdiction in India.

The Hampton School past student explained that she met her husband in 2003 when she was about to graduate.

He was 23 at the time and she explained that he was the sweetest, most caring human being ever.

The man, who she said was a taxi driver in his home country, came to Jamaica to work, but unfortunately lost his job and his work permit was about to expire. She agreed to marry him when he asked, in order for him to stay here.

“He cried when he lost his job and it broke my heart. The way he talked about his mother and wanting to build a house for her, I felt sorry for him so I agreed to get married to him,” Brown told the Sunday Observer.

They got married in 2006 when she was 19. She started attending Montego Bay Community College (Frome campus) and shortly after dropped out to work full-time at the store they opened in the seaside town of Negril in 2007.

She explained that they had to clear some hurdles to get the location near Alfred's Beach because another Indian business owner tried to get the location by offering more money for the spot.

“When [my husband] found out that he wasn't going to get the spot I went to the owner in my uniform and begged him to give us the location, which he signed up the lease for and said that I reminded him of his daughter,” she said.

That was the birth of Destiny's Gift Shop, where Brown said she worked from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm weekdays, and from 7:00 am to 3:00 am on weekends.

But success in business, she said, triggered a change in her husband.

“He started to change for the worse when the shop started making money. The more money came in, the more abusive he got, and he started to drink as well. He was never at the shop and all he did was stay home while I take care of the business,” Brown alleged.

“He started to drink more with his Indian friends, who were more accepting of him now that he was making more money. When we didn't have anything he wasn't like that,” she said.

According to Brown, her husband started to display bouts of jealousy.

“He views Jamaican women as promiscuous and I was a virgin. I did not see any problem with what he was saying at the time because all I saw growing up was Indian and Chinese men being married, having a family, and thought their family lives were perfect,” she said.

“I was brainwashed into thinking like that because growing up in St Elizabeth, all I ever saw were Jamaican men glorifying cheating, and as soon as they get their women pregnant they leave — and I was afraid of that happening to me,” she added.

“I grew up seeing my father treating my mother like a queen and I wanted that.”

“My parents, who are Seventh-Day Adventists, were against our marriage, and my mother kept on saying that we were unequally yoked because I am Christian and he is Hindu. But I didn't care because I love him,” Brown said.

“He got jealous to the point where he would stop the delivery guys from coming to the store. Whenever we went to any Indian function he would get angry if I interacted with anyone and would sometimes beat me when we get home,” she alleged.

“One day we went to the supermarket and a man called me beautiful and when we went home he kicked me in my stomach over and over again, choke and kick me down. He would even search the followers I have on social media and choked me one time when a particular person followed me. Another time he beat me because I cornrowed my 18-year-old nephew's hair,” Brown said.

“I made reports to the Negril police but nothing was ever done because I had no cuts and bruises on me. He was a smart abuser. He would never hit me in my face or do anything that will leave a mark on me,” she added.

Repeated attempts by the Sunday Observer over the past three weeks to get confirmation from the Negril police were unsuccessful as the phone rang unanswered.

Brown said the abuse went on for years, and while living in India for two years, between 2015 and 2017, she witnessed a lot of domestic violence in her in-laws' household.

She explained that her son, who was born in 2009 in Westmoreland, ended up in India because he had a fever in his head that would not go away whenever he was in Jamaica.

“I had been travelling to India every six months since 2010 but decided to move there in 2015 following health issues we were having with my son.

“We had to take him to the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital and private doctors because of a fever in his head so many times, and they couldn't find anything wrong with him. We decided that we're going to take him to a doctor in India, but when we got there the fever went and we decided that it was probably best he stayed there for a while,” she told the Sunday Observer.

According to Brown, in April 2017 she witnessed her husband's brother being forced to stop his father from abusing his mother.

“When I saw my brother-in-law went over to beat his father because he was abusing his mother, I saw my future flash in front of my eyes, as my mother-in-law had been taking abuse for 38 years of her life. I did not want to have to put my son in a position to have to defend me later on in life from his father,” she said.

“I called [my husband] and told him what happened, because he was still in Jamaica because of the business. I told him I wanted a divorce and that I was going to leave.”

However, she said that before she left the house, her brother-in-law told her that she could go but had to leave her son behind.

At the time, Brown said she was to go to her brother's graduation in Maine, USA, so she came to Jamaica with the intention of staying for two weeks and then heading to the US. However, she had to cut her visit short because her husband, she alleged, was stalking the address where she was staying at with family in Negril.

Brown said that while she was in Maine her brother told her that the Fort Kent police had called because they spotted her husband in the neighbourhood after neighbours alerted them to the presence of a suspicious man.

The Sunday Observer contacted Fort Kent Chief of Police Tom Pelletier who confirmed the incident.

“Yes, that is correct. He was in Fort Kent at one time and we did have contact with him. But there were no charges; he wasn't charged with anything,” Pelletier said.

“We just said he should not have any contact with her. We couldn't tell him to go back home; we had no authority to do that. Maybe he did go back home. But nope, he was not charged. I know he had contact with her brother and they spoke, and that was it. Our contact with him was very short and I can just confirm that he was here and that's it,” he said.

Brown said she was puzzled about how her husband found out where she was until some of her brother's friends checked her iPhone, which her husband had given her as a gift, and discovered that he was tracking her through the device. “So I had to get rid of the phone,” she said.

“I eventually came back to Jamaica because I could not overstay in the US, and stayed in the hills of St Andrew for a while before moving to my current location,” Brown told the Sunday Observer.

She said that her husband lied to her about his intention to give her the divorce, sold all of their assets — including two other stores they were able to open in Negril — and moved back to India where he opened a restaurant.

“He is not going to give me a divorce because he thinks that I am lucky. Indians believe in astrology and such things and a priest told him that my name, Sheffanesse, was lucky for him. So even though we are separated he will not legally part with me because he thinks I am lucky,” she said.

“At this point, I just want to get back my son. I want him to know that his mother did not abandon him and if I have to get the news [media] involved, I will. So I am doing what I have to do to get in contact with him because I have not spoken to him since 2017,” she said.

“As a mother, it really pains my heart and I am really tired. I asked some friends in India to bring him a bike for his last birthday and the video they sent back broke my heart because he looked scared,” Brown said, and alleged that her husband later sent a message that he was going to burn the bike.

She is now asking the Government to intervene in any way it can.

“People think domestic violence is a joke. Someone even said I bet if you had your baby for a Jamaican you will have your son right now because him wouda lef' you and gone,” she said.

“I am just happy to make it out of India alive and I made a commitment to God and myself that I will fight for myself. Parental alienation is very serious and he has brainwashed my son into thinking that I am evil and has abandoned him,” Brown alleged.

“All of this pains me. I worked very hard to build a life with him but he basically used me,” Brown said.


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