Trinidad and Tobago citizens woke up to the traumatising news on Monday that little Saria Williams had died after she was chopped on the head by a cutlass-wielding relative during a domestic dispute involving her grandmother.
The 15-month-old baby girl died at the San Fernando General Hospital moments after the attack as doctors tried unsuccessfully to save her, even as relatives and friends tried to come to terms with what had happened, especially since the innocent child had absolutely nothing to do with what had transpired and led to the unfortunate and tragic incident.
If, however, we as citizens reflect on the circumstances of the incident, were little Saria’s family and friends truly caught totally unaware that such a situation could develop?
By her own admittance, the baby’s grandmother, Michelle Williams, shouldered the blame for the incident, having admitted to keeping the suspect within her life and circle for over two decades despite a situation of severe domestic abuse and violence.
The details of the instances of abuse, as she recounted them, told a tale that suggests both the victim and abuser needed serious psychological support and help, neither of which came. Furthermore, it is also clear that family members, friends and the police were aware of the situation, especially since Miss Williams would have found herself in medical institutions following several of the incidents. So even while Miss Williams admitted to not reporting some of the attacks, by virtue of her seeking treatment for her wounds, the T&T Police Service and social services should have stepped in a long time ago to separate her family from the aggressor in a more formal manner — leaving anything thereafter completely to her own making.
Miss Williams claims to have taken out a restraining order years ago before forgiving her attacker but was due to return to the court on Monday to go through the process again — suggesting the situation steadily deteriorated. In theory, then, constant monitoring by both the TTPS and social services, with a little co-operation from the medical personnel who would have dealt with her each time, should have prevented this latest incident.
But have we not heard such cases before? Only in March this year, we had the case of Adeina Alleyne, who was chopped to death by her husband Dwight Waldropt in her Embacadere apartment in front of her children. She too had a history of domestic abuse which those in her circle were aware of but didn't enough to help her out of.
So at least part of the issue is about how our state institutions and those closes to us treat such cases. The question that arises is always whether victims of domestic abuse get the support they desire to leave their situations. How many more victims must die before we rectify this crack within the system?
On that note, Miss Williams’ own words bear witness to her pain.
“As you hear a man abusing you, go to the police station. You will get counselling, talk the truth, tell them everything, don’t be like me, I was a coward,” she said of her situation.
So today, as we offer condolences to the family and friends of Sariah’s grieving family, we must also reflect on the advice of little Sariah’s grandmother.