More than 2,000 people attended a silent march through George Town in the blazing heat on Saturday to pay tribute to Estella Scott-Roberts and victims of domestic abuse.
At a rally held following the march outside the Legislative Assembly, Minister of Health and Human Services Anthony Eden announced that within the next 30 days, a committee will be formed consisting of experts and practitioners in the field of gender affairs and equality to advise government on policy issues.
The committee, which is likely to be headed, at least initially, by chairman of the board of directors of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre Len Layman will be made up of members from groups that work with abused women and deal with victims of violence.
Mr. Eden also said that the board of the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, a refuge for abused women and children that Mrs. Scott-Roberts was instrumental in setting up, had been asked to consider renaming the centre after her.
Mrs. Scott-Roberts was killed 10 October after leaving a restaurant where she celebrated her birthday with friends. Her badly burned body was found in her vehicle along the dykes roads in West Bay. No one has been charged with her death.
Mr. Layman gave an impassioned speech before the crowd – the biggest ever seen at a Silent Witness March in Cayman in the 11 years since it was first held.
‘As long as we have violence and abuse in our homes, we will never get rid of violence on our streets,’ Mr. Layman said.
‘The news of Estella’s death has shaken us both individually and as a community,’ he said, adding that she had touched and changed the lives of many people she met.
‘In tragic times such as this, it is very easy to be consumed with anger and fear – that is a normal human response,’ he said.
He urged people to put negative emotions aside and instead take positive steps to combat violence, by volunteering, mentoring, making donations and to use their talents to bring about an end to abuse.
‘This is a call to action. This is the fork in the road,’ he told the crowd.
Most of the people who attended were dressed in red to commemorate victims of domestic violence, or in brown, Mrs. Scott-Roberts’ favourite colour. Others wore ‘Remember Estella’ T-shirts.
Despite the large number of people, the streets of George Town were entirely silent from 12.30pm to 1pm as the crowd made its way from the Glass House to the Legislative Assembly Building. Some carried banners and signs calling for peace and an end to violence, while others carried pictures of Mrs. Scott-Roberts. Others held aloft red silhouettes of women to mark the victims of domestic violence.
Mrs. Scott-Roberts’ husband, Rayle Roberts, was among the silent marchers. Other family members and friends were in the crowd as well as representatives of political parties, schools and victim support groups.
Minister Eden, speaking from a podium at the steps of the LA Building, said: ‘Unlike in previous years, our march to these steps has been a most heart-wrenching and painful experience as we continue to mourn the loss of our beloved Estella Scott-Roberts.’
The rally was organised by the Business and Professional Women’s Club.
The first Silent Witness March was held in Minnesota in 1991 and the goal of the Silent Witness National Initiative is to achieve zero domestic killings by 2010.
Organisers of yesterday’s march estimated that more than 2,000 people attended.
Velma Hewitt, president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club, said she hoped that the turnout at future marches would be as strong as that on Saturday. ‘Will you be here next year?’ she asked the crowd.
‘Estella is still with us and she will never be forgotten,’ she said.
Cindy Blekaitis, acting director of the Women’s Resource Centre, said Mrs. Scott-Roberts was one of those people who had given voice to the silent victims of abuse.
‘She believed in this cause with her heart and her soul,’ she said.
‘Ultimately, we are now Estella’s voice. She would always speak out, especially to violence against women and child sexual abuse,’ Ms Blekaitis said, urging the public to now join that battle to end domestic violence in the Cayman Islands.