June 22, 2002
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On Wednesday night, a group of women on their way home from work came upon a man beating a woman at a street corner. Sandra Castor's brutal death at the hands of her reputed husband and her burial in a shallow grave fresh in their minds, they stopped to render assistance. One of them used her cellular phone to call the Impact Police, while the others used their voices and some choice language to get him to desist.
In the end, the man did stop, but the police arrived after he had left the scene. No one knew whether they caught up with him or if he was arrested.
The women, who are to be applauded, did not feel they had helped. They were struck by the fact that even with them supporting her, the woman was too petrified to stand up for herself. They were upset at her public humiliation. They were hurt at the thought that if the couple shared a conjugal relationship, perhaps before the night ended the man and woman would be back together. They went home wishing that they could have done something.
But they deserve praise. They stood for something that night. They raised their voices against violence against women, not at a rally or symposium, but when it was needed. They got involved.
Maybe the abuser left because he knew the police had been called, but maybe he left because he was ashamed. If Sandra Castor had women like these on her side, she might have been alive today. If Sonia Hinds had such women in her community, she might not have lost both her hands. Who knows?
What is clear is that there is need for more militancy where this particular issue is concerned. Women, in particular, can, must, do more. Women have to stop treating abuse, including domestic abuse, as a private matter. Men who abuse women must be ostracised. Don't invite them to your parties and weddings; don't vote them into positions at clubs and on councils; don't laugh and chat with them; do not collude with them. Expose them.
The woman next door whose husband slaps her into subjugation is your sister, mother, aunt, daughter. Do something to help her.
It is clear that, whatever the reason, the Domestic Violence Act is not protecting women. The government obviously has other priorities. Women's groups though they try to empower women to prevent abuse, can only reach so many. Where abuse is known to exist, sister power could be a realistic deterrent.