Marchers walk in silence to honor victims of domestic violence

Marchers supporting victims of domestic violence leave the former government building grounds, heading to central George Town on Thursday evening. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

A group of about 50 people walked along Elgin Avenue, from the old government building to the center of George Town, Thursday night in support of victims of domestic abuse.

The annual event, organized by the Business and Professional Women’s Club, is in its 18th year. While it began as an effort to draw attention to domestic abuse of women and children, in recent years it has broadened its scope to include an anti-bullying element.

After a short walk, during which marchers were silent in honor of those affected by violence, several speakers addressed the small crowd.

James Austin-Smith, an attorney who chairs the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission, talked about the increase in reports of domestic violence in the country this year.

“By July,” he said, “there had been the same number of reports as in the entirety of the previous year. There are eight times as many reports of domestic violence today as there were in 2013,” he said.

“I was appalled by the sheer number and the increase,” he said. But, he added, “There hasn’t been an eight-fold increase in domestic violence since 2013. There’s been an eight-fold increase in reports, and that gives me hope.”

After his speech to the crowd, Mr. Austin-Smith said he thinks the increase in reporting is due to a “cultural shift,” which has raised more awareness of the issue.

People who might not have reported domestic violence in the past are doing so now, he said, because “they’re going to be listened to and someone’s going to do something.”

Events such as the march aid in the perception.

“All of this creates a culture where people feel able to say something,” he said.

Speaking up is necessary in order to bring attention to both domestic violence and bullying, said Brenda Dawkins of the Family Resource Center. Ms. Dawkins talked about the center’s campaign against bullying called Stood Up. She told the crowd that children who engage in bullying behavior are twice as likely to engage in criminal behavior as their peers.

“Bullying, or any form of abuse, affects us all,” she said. “There are times when you need to speak out and stand up.”

Kimberly Connolly, an assistant manager at the Renaissance Villas, talked about her own experience living with domestic abuse. Such behaviors, she said, often move from one generation to the next. She shared what she said was the most enlightening conversation she had with her husband.

“One day I asked this individual, ‘What causes you to behave this way?’” she said. “He said, ‘My mother survived it, so can you.’

“The cycle needs to be broken,” she added. “Domestic violence and child abuse is everybody’s business.”