Worldwide attention has been shed on violence in relationships between young people and teens, since the alleged altercation between R&B superstars Rihanna and boyfriend Chris Brown.
This has raised the question: How prevalent are violent teenage relationships in Cayman?
‘We have had maybe three situations within the last year where there are teenagers in a relationship and there is domestic violence,’ said Detective Inspector of the RCIPS Family Support Unit Claudia Brady. ‘I suspect, however, that there are more domestic violence issues that are going on between teens than are being reported.’
Echoing Detective Inspector Brady’s sentiments was Empowerment and Community Development Agency’s Cindy Blekaitis. ‘The type of violence between young people in relationships is very under-reported here, which is cause for concern,’ she said.
Cayman Crisis Centre’s Carol Graham explained, ‘From time to time we do receive calls from teens or hear about them being involved in domestic violence issues, and have to refer some elsewhere because the crisis centre does not take teens under 18.
‘There are not a lot of resources for teens experiencing this type of violence, and because of this, we fear that they sometimes fall through the cracks.’
John Gray High School counsellor Patricia Fenton-Pearce explained that a clean-cut situation like the alleged beating that Rihanna received from Brown has not been brought to her attention. However, she added, ‘From time to time they [teenagers] will get into little fusses, and sometimes threats can be made, or it can go to the extreme where if anything is captured on video it is circulated.’
Maintaining that she has not been made aware of any physical abuse between any of her students involved in a relationship, Mrs. Fenton-Pearce added, ‘ There are a few that are verbally abusive.’
Noting that some young females perpetuate the ‘battered woman syndrome’ by not speaking up, she said, ‘It could be a situation that if it is happening, it is not brought to my attention, as they might want to hide it.’
Brenda Dawkins of the Young Parent Programme said, ‘Maybe 10 years ago we had to deal with situations like that a lot, and in some cases had to intervene but I am not aware of anything like that happening here lately.
‘Maybe it is a situation that they [YPP members] are speaking to other counsellors or know what to look out for through our training on domestic violence and child abuse. I am not saying it is not happening, but I will say that it is not being reported on my end.’
With the notion that children emulate their parents Mrs. Fenton- Pearce sought to have the problem firstly addressed in the home. ‘I listen to the kids when they come to me and I find that there is a lot of abuse in the homes that they are coming from, so one of the things that could stem situations like this is for education on abuse to start with the parents in the home.’
Ms Blekaitis said, ‘Children live what they learn and if violence is in the home and in the media, that doesn’t send the right message.
‘Children need to be given more positive examples of what healthy relationships are.’
Detective Inspector Brady noted that the RCIPS Family Support Unit goes to schools and speaks to the students about these issues; how to value themselves and not allow certain things to happen. She also called for parents to educate their children on what is legal and what isn’t. ‘The school tries to do this, and we [the police] do from our angle, but I think it is important for parents to educate them also,’ she said.
Pointing out that some parents turn a blind eye, Inspector Brady said, ‘Also if parents recognise what is happening they need to let us [RICPS] know. You do have parents that notice something is wrong and come forward, but you have other cases where the parents brush the situation off because they see it as just young love.’