COCO PIECE, Clarendon — Prime Minister Andrew Holness is urging Jamaicans not to take domestic and intimate partner violence lightly, and to instead seek the intervention of the police at the first sign of abuse. He noted that these situations usually start small, with telltale signs of violence, before they escalate.
“Once you start to see them using violence and physical force as a means of resolving conflicts, don’t just say ‘Him aggressive’ and just write it off,” he advised, labelling such behaviour as an illness that needs to be treated. “Therefore, my message to families who are treating with this kind of crisis in their household, ‘Don’t take it lightly; don’t accept it as normal; and allow the courts to take its course on people who use violence.”
The prime minister was speaking during a visit with the family of Kimesha Wright and her four children who were brutally slain at their house in Coco Piece, Clarendon, on June 21.
Holness said the Government has placed some focus on addressing the issue of domestic disputes but cited several challenges, such as privacy rights, that hinder progress. Unlike conflicts linked to gang activity, he said it is difficult to know when domestic violence will erupt.
“It’s very difficult to predict when it is going to happen, as opposed to gangs [in which case] you have an idea where they are operating and where the conflict is, and, we will preposition resources there to treat with that. It would be very difficult to predict and preposition resources for a gruesome act such as this, but there are lessons we need to learn about how to treat with this type of violence,” he said.
“We have become numb in some instances and we have grown to accept violence, so we don’t see violent behaviour as abnormal. In most cases where domestic violence has escalated to loss of lives the perpetrator would have demonstrated the propensity to use violence before, as is the case with Rushane Barnett where there was a previous case of bodily harm,” Holness added.
The prime minister said perpetrators should be held accountable for the lower threshold of violence. Otherwise, he argued, their actions may easily escalate because of the view that there is no consequence for using violence to solve issues they face.