A solemn march through downtown George Town highlighted the ongoing problem of domestic violence and bullying in the Cayman Islands.
At the Business and Professional Women’s Silent Witness March on Friday, supporters walked from the former government administration building to Heroes Square to give voice to those who have none.
Unlike in previous years, the Business and Professional Women’s Club 13th ceremony featured local speakers who shared their own experiences of domestic violence and bullying.
“Why do we need outside stories from Miami, New York and anywhere else when we have our homegrown stories of domestic violence and bullying in our midst?” asked club president Linda McField.
One speaker told a harrowing tale of domestic abuse, describing the many beatings she endured over the years, both as a newlywed and then as a young mother of two.
She said when she first met her husband, she thought he was a “breath of fresh air,” and that when he initially showed signs of jealously, she passed it off as his way of making her think he cared.
On her wedding night, he beat her for the first time and the torment and abuse continued for several years.
This year, the march for the first time expanded its aim to highlight domestic violence by including bullying as a subject that is necessary to address.
A teenage bullying victim told participants what it was like to be picked on. “It was not as extreme as what others endured, but it was to me,” she said, explaining that the bullying started when she began competitive swimming and ended up being teased by a boy for several years.
Writer Mary Rankine also gave her account of one woman’s struggle to overcome cruelty and criticism to make a comeback through persistence, perseverance and prayer.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick also attended the march and offered support against domestic violence and bullying. “I am absolutely sure that everyone here knows who have been affected by these issues and I find that short walk in silence a really great way of remembering personally those people.”
George Town MLA Winston Connolly provided brief remarks on behalf of Cabinet Minister Tara Rivers, who coincidentally was in Cayman Brac on Friday to deal with an issue of bullying in a Brac primary school.
Ms Rivers said in her statement that bullying and domestic violence was of great concern to her and the government.
“All too often, attitudes of acceptance towards gender inequalities are risk factors for perpetrating and experiencing domestic violence. Domestic violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims,” she said.
She explained how such domestic abuse encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including the neglect and sexual abuse of children, and can manifest in emotional, physical, verbal, sexual and financial abuse. For these reasons, she urged everyone to take a firm stance against all types of violence.
In the comments delivered by Mr. Connolly, Ms Rivers also stated that government would be seeking stiffer penalties for rape.