My Name is Valdeen Tamara Shears, I am a 43-year-old mother of seven, grandmother of one and I am fed up of being scared.
Scared of dying at the hands of my abuser. Scared of becoming my country's next statistic. Scared of leaving my already emotionally traumatized children and family behind crying out for justice that has yet to come for those before them.
Of living in limbo and of crying out to all who would hear, but never truly listen to what some may dub "paranoia", "battered wife syndrome" and in local jargon in my home country of Trinidad and Tobago... "needles.
I am victim, turned survivor...turned victim!!
Almost three years ago, following a family crisis, I salvaged what was left of my courage and I spoke out.
I did so through legal channels, yet I still live under the shadow of my abuser, under the threat of death to my children, myself, my family.
Almost three years later and I still fear becoming a statistic like Anita Bahadur, who cried out for protection, like Abigail Chapman, her teenage daughter, best friend and their landlord, like Tahilia St Clair and the countless others who died or was maimed at the hands of their estranged spouse or a rejected lover.
I am so fed up, I have decided that I can be an agent of change for other faceless, voiceless victims and survivors in my country, who suffer in silence, too afraid of their abusers to do more than exist and pray for deliverance from their abusive situations.
My dream, my duty, is ambitious, but if one homemaker in the US could get legislation changed to benefit the lives of others, through, sadly the death of her own abused daughter, then I believe I can at least try to do the same.
Please refer the life and death of Amber Schinault, who was killed in 2012, by her ex-boyfriend, whom she had obtained a protective order against from a previous violent incident.
This young lady is the inspiration behind Amber's Bill of Maryland, and was being dubbed in the US, "the first line of defense against domestic violence offenders".
I owe it to my daughters to want to see laws like these passed in my country, which will actually protect them against the prey and narcissists of this world.
I owe it to my one-year-old grand daughter to try to make this world a safer place for her, when she is of age to enter into a relationship, a marriage.
I owe it to those who know that in my country, a Protection Order is "just ah piece of paper".
It took my first steps transitioning from "victim" to "survivor" for me to be blessed with the idea of The ABA Movement.
ABA- is short for All for Bracelet Alerts (GPS TRACKING DEVICES TO BE MONITORED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT) and a corresponding APP or alert to the victim/survivor that they are in danger.
Presently our women and girls are supposedly protected by the laws within the Domestic Violence Act 1999, which has seen human rights advocates lobbying for amendments and changes for as long as I can remember.
Simply put, the ACT does not offer a network of protection for the abused, its penalties are too lenient, it leaves out different or diverse factions of our society and most of its weight is placed on the application and granting of that "piece of paper".
In trying to advocate for these legislative changes, I formed a Facebook page by the same name and have conducted random, brief paper surveys for the past three years asking both genders four simple questions:
"Would you be supportive of the implementation of the above action?"
"Do you think the Protective Order is effective?"
"Would you sign a petition in support of the implementation of both actions..namely mandatory GPS tracking devices and rehabilitative counseling?"
"Do you think mandatory counseling as a condition of bail, will act as a deterrent against repeat offenders?"
Almost all of the surveys came back completely supportive of the suggestions put forward by The ABA Movement.
My country needs to hold abusers more accountable, not just give them another easy way out and we need to make it mandatory that they seek and get the required emotional and psychological help they need, especially if they in fact do genuinely want that for themselves.
I was reminded by one supporter that many cases of domestic violence don't even reach the courts or are reported.
Do you wonder why?
The abused are jaded, know that abusers are granted bail, that the systems in place do not communicate to offer further protection, apart and aside from the Protection Order.
Did you know that, in T&T, an abuser has to have threatened you within six months of your application to qualify one for a P.O?
Did you know that a survivor's expressions of ongoing fear, based on their ordeal and the knowledge of their abuser's capabilities to follow through on their threats, are not enough factors to warrant a renewal or extension of a P.O?
WE know that abusers are granted bail at reachable figures and that victims/survivors are never warned of their abusers release from prison.
WE know that only an act of God can change the mindset of a rejected abuser bent on murder or murder/suicide.
The police and justice system needs to offer the abused laws that can adequately protect them and truly transform victims into survivors.
Think of the dignity, identity and resolve a victim can have if he or she knows that along with the Protection Order, there is a device that will not only alert the police that the abuser has breached the order, but also inform her of that breach, so she can get to safety or send out a timely distress call.
THIS CAN AND WILL SAVE LIVES.
The ABA Movement, though is not saying condemn abusers, put an ankle device on them and ostracize them, its calling for MANDATORY counselling that will impact on the abusers bail or revocation of. In my country, I have seen perpetrators religiously visit police stations to have their "copy book" signed: a condition of their bails, often twice weekly. They walk to court with that book, a testimony that they are actually mindful, if not afraid, of the consequences of not doing the magistrates orders.
Why can counselling not be made mandatory and a condition of their bails? Can this not trickle down to possibly the curbing of other crimes or at least repeat offences?
Daily, monthly, yearly we lose our women, children, men to domestic violence and abuse, because of inadequate protective measures.
My next move is to send out these surveys and an online petition via email from [email protected] to gather responses across my country and jump start the conversation of this device, which I might add is already before Cabinet.
PLEASE HELP ME IN DEMANDING THAT THESE RECOMMENDATIONS BE MADE MANDATORY BY TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO LAW.