If I should choke up a bit during this address it is because I, like you, am deeply and sadly affected by the loss of Estella, and I make no excuses if I do.
I will not apologise if I should raise my voice at times; it’s because I like you am upset. Upset at this needless loss. Upset that violence and abuse still exist on our Islands and in our homes. Upset because, you and I are not doing all that we can to eliminate this terrible problem.
I will also not apologise if I should make you feel uncomfortable with some of the things I say this afternoon.
We have come a long way since the first silent Witness March 11 years ago. There is a small but very active group of people struggling to make these Islands a safer place for all who live here a place free of violence.
Since that first march we have made great strides: The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the Woman’s Resource Centre and Legal Befrienders are a few of those. Many of the police and other frontline workers have been through and many more will go through the Domestic Violence Intervention Training Program. One of the most exciting programmes is the Darkness to Light course addressing child sexual abuse. It is very rewarding to see the strides that have been made in the last 11 years. Many of these gains were possible because of the groundwork that the Business and Professional Women’s Club started years ago and continue today. My thanks to all the Business and Professional Women’s Club and the Young Business and Professional and Business Women’s Club members for your valuable work in the community.
My thanks also for all those who have built on that groundwork and together got us where we are today.
It is always nice to look back and pat ourselves on the back for how far we have come but the work does not lie behind us, but in front of us.
What has been done is just a baby step compared to what needs to be done to eradicate abuse and violence in our community.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear to all of you and I hope that each of you is listening carefully. As long as we have violence in our homes we will never get rid of it on our streets.
We cannot expect to raise non-violent adults in violent homes.
To tolerate domestic abuse and violence is to passively accept the violence that exists in our community. Let me repeat: As long as we have violence in our homes, we will never, never get rid of it on our streets.
One of the strongest leaders and most fearless advocates against domestic abuse and violence was sadly and horrifically taken from us. The news of Estella’s death has shaken us both individually and as a community. I know I speak for all here when I extend sincere and deep condolences to her husband, Rayle, and all her family and friends, my hearts goes out to you all. I know that many of you here today have had your lives touched and improved by this amazing woman. I know that my life was touched and changed because of knowing and working with her.
In a tragic time like we are going through, it is very easy to be consumed by anger and fear. It’s a normal human response. But we need to be careful, anger and fear are negatives and it is hard to move forward in a positive manner when we are consumed with negative emotions.
Negative emotions make us want to blame or find fault with something or someone for the shape our community is in.
Those of you spending time finding fault with the police, the politicians, the courts are not being productive. You are wasting energies that could be directed at the root cause of the violence in Cayman. You can hear it all over this island. Turn on a talk radio shows, listen to your co-workers, listen to your friends and listen to yourself; blaming, finger pointing and complaining. This wasted energy does nothing to solve the problem.
If you’re not actively working to solve the problem, you, by default are accepting the violence in our community and that makes you part of the problem. I know these are harsh words, but in my heart I know them to be true.
If all the energies that were spend finding fault were directed to finding solutions and if all the time we spend speculating together was used working together, we could reach the goal of being violence free. Violence in our homes and our community will continue until each of you decides to change it.
So what can you do?
• First you can stop wasting your time placing blame and pointing fingers at others, and start taking positive action.
•You can take ownership of the fact that if you are not working to solve the problem, you become part of the problem. Violence is not just someone else’s problem; it is yours and mine. We are all affected by it. If you did not believe that a week ago it should be obvious to you today.
•You can encourage your church to stand up and speak out against domestic abuse. Ask your preacher to talk against domestic abuse from the pulpit.
• You can give of your time, volunteer and get educated about the problems. Get involved – find a way to put your talents to work in a positive manner. I can hear the excuse now going through your head. Number one excuse: ‘I don’t have time’. Make time. If you truly care you will find time.
• You can give of your resources. Regretfully, there is a high cost to eradicating violence and abuse. There is a cost to protecting the victims and there is a cost to educating and training the entire population. Both corporations and individuals need to step up and open their wallets and check books and help.
• You can make sure that you know the views of the politicians who are asking for your vote and are in line with the results you want. Ask them the tough questions as to what they will do if you entrust your vote to them, then work with them to assure it happens.
• You can pray and have faith that we will prevail and the persistence to assure the end to domestic violence and gender violence.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a call to action.
This is the fork in the road. This is time for you to make a decision. You can stay on the road of apathy that you are on and leave the serious work of solving the violence and abuse in our Islands to others; or you can take the road of action and become a part of the solution. Make your decision.
If you chose the road of apathy please get out of our way.
Today we marched silently in respect of and in honour of all those who have died and suffer needlessly at the hands of violence and abuse.
When we leave here today, this silence needs to stop and positive action needs to begin.
Today we specifically honour Estella Scott-Roberts, who dedicated her life to, championed, and lead this community in the struggle against violence and injustice to woman and children.
To me Estella was part friend, part social conscience, part mentor, inspiration, teacher and at times slave driver. I know her commitment to what is right and her laughter will echo in my life forever. Each of you will remember Estella and honour her life in your own way but there is one thing I hope we can all agree on.
Estella did not get to finish her work before she was taken from us.
It is left to us to finish the job she started. And finish the job we must.
God bless you and God bless the Cayman Islands