Domestic violence court sees support from Crisis Centre

The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has backed calls for a specialist court to fast-track domestic violence cases. 

A report from a U.K. lawyer on Cayman’s criminal justice system also recommended the admission of hearsay evidence to help cases proceed when victims are unwilling to testify. 

The recommendations, from adviser Claire Wetton, also called for separate waiting areas for victims and defendants when cases go to court. 

The board of the Cayman Crisis Centre endorsed those viewpoints this week, suggesting they would help cases from falling through when victims retracted their statements. 

“In this report, Ms. Wetton correctly identifies gaps in the current system that severely impact victims of domestic violence and their rights to justice,” said Denise Gower, chairwoman of the Crisis Centre board. 

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“We support the suggestion for the legislative and operational changes Ms. Wetton has suggested in order to ensure that domestic violence victims are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.” 

Ms. Gower said research shows that women and men stayed in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, including fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem and even love. 

“These are strong motivators for anyone, but when they are compounded by hearing dates that are many months ahead, it robs the victim of a sense of hope for the future: the sense that the judicial system cares about her and her children.” 

Ms. Wetton’s report suggested multiple adjournments in domestic violence cases often lead to the collapse of prosecution. 

“A dedicated domestic violence court where cases can be fast-tracked, with the cases being listed within 24 hours of the complaint would reduce the number of retractions and delay in the process,” the report noted. 

Ms. Gower said the report’s recommendation that victims and defendants be kept in separate waiting areas at court is also important. 

“When you think that people who live in abusive relationships are coerced and bullied constantly, it is reasonable to understand that the brave woman who goes to the courthouse on the scheduled day determined to give her testimony might be convinced otherwise when faced with her abuser and his supporters in the waiting room.” 

The Crisis Centre has a 24-hour confidential emergency hotline at 943-2422. 

Ms. Gower

Ms. Gower
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  1. Domestic violence is a very serious problem in the Cayman Islands. I support the push to find new ways to tackle this problem but the admission of hearsay evidence should not be allowed in most circumstances. We also need to be doing significantly more to encourage our at risk men to come out of the shadows and report any and all instances of domestic violence directed at them. For too long now the rules of our society have dictated that men should accept domestic violence directed at them but it time for those rules to change and for men to speak out on this issue.

    Does anyone know if the Cayman Crisis Centre has done anything specifically to assist the at risk men within our society?

  2. @markboland you are right in pointing out that men are victims of domestic violence as well as women and the CICC does its best to be inclusive of both women and men when we are addressing the issue of intimate partner violence. As a Centre, we are unable to provide safe shelter for men because of our space limitations. We have a three bedroom house which will sleep up to 18 people – as you can see, it would be inappropriate to have women and men together in such a situation an in such close quarters.
    We do, however operate a 24-hour crisis line – 943 2422 – where we accept calls from anyone. In our last fiscal year (ending June 30 2015) we took calls from 5 men and were able to offer them support and referrals on how they could get help.
    The CICC is very supportive of ensuring that male voices are heard as well as we push for a "domestic violence free Cayman"

  3. @Denise Gower:

    Thank you for the feedback. I fully support the work of the Cayman Crisis Centre and everything it does for at risk women in the Cayman Islands. That being said, there is clearly some level of discrimination against men that is taking place. I understand the reasons given for this as outlined in your comment, however, your comment also confirms what I have always suspected and serves to strengthen my belief that there is a need for a new approach to dealing with the issue of domestic violence that sees both men and women as equals and equally deserving of protection.