A rise in the incidence of domestic attacks, the latest of which claimed the life of a nine-year-old St Catherine boy, has triggered a call for the authorities to set up centres in vulnerable communities where people who are experiencing domestic issues can access counselling.
The call was made by mostly male residents in Windsor Heights, St Catherine, yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer visited the community following the chopping to death of young Steve Johnson, and the injuring of his mother and two-year-old brother in the community on Saturday.
“Even though the police system is there, we want something greater than the police system, just to pay attention to domestic violence. Just like how you have a community centre, every community should just have a little club where you can go talk and somebody can come in and talk to you,” 29-year-old Sean Henry recommended.
Henry, who was among a group of men playing Ludo to help clear their minds after the gruesome attack, said counselling is the best way out for families under pressure.
“When you have [so many instances of] domestic violence, the best way I see to approach that is for Government to set up a counselling system, because right now the man dem a kill out the future. Right now if we nuh look out for the little ones, when we pass and gone nobody nah go deh here. Right now the best way me see dem can approach dah ting yah, [is for the men to know that] if you’re in a relationship and it a cause problems, leave it alone, walk out,” he said, explaining that only counselling can cement that kind of mindset.
Another resident who asked that he not be named, and who has benefited from this mindset change, chimed in.
“Me is a married man, and if mi come ketch a man on top of my wife in the house mi nah do her nothing,” he said as he rolled the dice.
“All mi a say to the man dem is, a fi you woman ennuh, weh me ago chop up and turn on di little pickney dem and chop dem up for?”
The police confirmed that between 5:00 am and 6:00 am Saturday, residents heard a commotion at Collins Crescent, Windsor Heights, and summoned the Spanish Town police. Windsor Heights, a hilltop community, is accessible through the Central Village community.
When the police arrived, Steve, his mother, and brother were seen with multiple wounds. They were taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead while his mother and his brother were admitted.
Steve’s uncle, Leon Shields, condemned the violence against his family, and theorised that the family members were victims of a “man and woman dispute”.
“Is not everybody come to stay. Life is moving on; it is really tragic. We, ourselves, as men, have to stop this thing. No matter what a woman does, there is no right in a man brutally abusing her. Eventually a woman will use her mouth strongly, and she might give you a couple slaps, but when you raise your hand to give her back your strength it’s a bigger force and a harder lick, you understand? There is nothing a woman could really do to me for me to do that to her emotionally or physically.”
Clutching photographs of his nephew as he sat outside his house while his mother got dressed to visit her only daughter who remains in hospital, the father of one said the recurrence of similar violent incidents involving children in the island is alarming
He said Steve, who was a student at Gregory Park Primary School in Portmore, was a jovial child.
Another uncle, Romey Shields, told the Observer that when Steve didn’t show up to his house like he usually would on a Saturday morning, the child’s 15-year-old uncle went to the family’s hilltop home at approximately 8:00 am. He said shortly after the uncle returned and told the other family members about the tragedy.
“When I went around there my nephew was already dead. I called my other nephew, the baby, and he opened his eyes. When I took him up he was crying. I called my sister and she opened her eyes. She’s in a very bad state. She has a lot of chop wounds to her face, she can’t even talk. One of her ears got cut off,” he said.
This latest incident comes less than a week after Central High School student, 16-year-old Leroy Hamilton, fell victim to the rage of his sister’s jealous ex-lover in Clarendon, when he torched their dwelling, killing the boy and leaving his 24-year-old sister nursing severe burns. She later died.
In September, an enraged security guard who butchered his common-law wife and her teenaged daughter at their St James home later killed himself by driving off the Flat Bridge into the Rio Cobre in St Catherine, where he drowned. In that incident Fabian Lyewsang killed 45-year-old gas station supervisor Deon Smith and her 16-year-old daughter Jayshenel Gordon then fled the murder scene in Smith’s motor car with his 13-year-old son aboard, and subsequently left the child at a family member’s house in Eltham Park, St Catherine, before taking the plunge.
And in August, 33-year-old Allisha Francis and her 10-year-old son, Teco Jackson, were chopped to death in Linton Park, St Ann, in an attack carried out by her ex-boyfriend.
Francis, Teco and her two other children, aged 12 and six years, were allegedly attacked by the man as the four were about to enter their home.
Francis and her two sons were chopped several times, with the 12-year-old son losing some of his fingers, residents said. Her six-year-old daughter was spared after she ran into a neighbour’s house.
The mother and son were pronounced dead at hospital, while her elder son was admitted in serious condition.
On Friday, speaking with secondary school students from across the island at a National Child Month Committee youth forum held at the St Andrew Parish Church hall, state minister for education, youth and information Floyd Green said legislators are almost at the end of deliberations on a suite of laws that provide for the protection of women, children and other vulnerable groups. He stressed that the aim is to create harsher punishment for those who commit crimes against these groups.
“We are looking at our laws and our penalties and we believe in a number of cases that relate to children and women, that our penalties are too soft and that we need more strident and stringent penalties to send a message that we are serious about protecting our women and children,” Green said.
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