This country has a domestic violence crisis. That is a fact that cannot be ignored. Which is why it is so perplexing that a dire situation has been allowed to develop a critical shortage of emergency shelters for women and families in need of a safe haven from abuse.
The issue should have received urgent attention soon after it was raised during a meeting last week which was co-hosted by the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Conflict Women. At the very least there should be some response from the Gender Affairs Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister and the line minister Ayanna Webster-Roy.
If Minister Webster-Roy is not aware of the gravity of situation, Coalition president Roberta Clarke should be able to enlighten her as to how such facilities can be the difference between life and death for women and their children in need of a safe place to start over after experiencing the trauma of spousal or intimate partner abuse.
International best practice is for one family space per 1,000 families but T&T, which should have at least 130 of such spaces, falls far short with only 25 available.
Even if the proposed government-run shelters were to come on stream in the short term, these spaces would not be sufficient to meet the desperate need for safe shelter for survivors of abuse.
Any woman in this country who has managed to come out of an abusive relationship alive can attest to how extremely challenging it is to rebuild their lives---a slow, painful process of trying to maintain some semblance of stability for their children with all of the accompanying financial, mental and emotional pitfalls.
Without adequate support services, it is virtually impossible for some families to survive.
The lack of emergency shelters is one of the reasons why some women stay in abusive relationships. Others seek shelter with friends or relatives but are not safe there because they are stalked and easily tracked down by their abusers, many of whom have no qualms about breaching protection orders.
According to a statement from the Coalition, two shelters had to suspend operations this year because the facilities need repair and others are in danger of shutting down. The urgent need for intervention cannot be overestimated. This is a situation that warrants the immediate attention of the Gender Affairs Unit.
However, support also needs to come from other sectors. More of corporate T&T needs to join the fight against domestic violence, contributing resources to the NGOs and individuals who have been on the front lines of this battle for decades.
Thanks to many courageous men and women, many of whom are unsung heroes, the lives of women have been saved and their families rescued from the trauma of domestic abuse. But they have done it for too long with very little appreciation or support.
We, therefore, appeal to the companies and agencies with the capacity to step up and help provide the safe spaces that are urgently needed.