“See something, do something.”
That’s the message from those behind the annual Silent Witness March, now in its 19th year.
On Friday, more than 100 people took to the streets of George Town, carrying silhouettes of victims for domestic violence in their hands and a message of justice as they participated in the annual march. The march started at the former government building, the Glass House, and ended on the steps of the Legislative Assembly.
Under the theme, ‘Remember my story, Remember my name,’ members of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and Silent Witness March committee sought to spur hope for victims of emotional and physical abuse and bullying.
“We want to encourage bystanders not to keep quiet, if they see something do something,” said Cheryl Myles, second vice president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club and chair of the Silent Witness March.
An increase in domestic violence cases heading to the new domestic violence court, Myles said, shows that awareness is on the rise and more victims are reaching out for help.
“I think it is because the stigma is broken, that is the belief of the business and professional women, we want to continue to break that stigma and having people come forward,” she said.
Last year, 2,200 cases of domestic violence were reported in the Cayman Islands. So far this year, police have received 1,900 such complaints.
Last week seven organisations, including the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and the Family Resource Centre, came together to form the Alliance to End Domestic Violence. The Alliance said their objective is to establish a multi-agency response to domestic violence in Cayman.
Myles said events like the Silent Witness march continue to shine the light on domestic violence in the Cayman Islands.
“This is an event where we come together as a community and try to encourage others to get involved in the [fight against] domestic violence that is occurring in the Cayman Islands, as well as bullying,” she said.
According to a Business and Professional Women’s Club statement on the march, recent statistics show that one in three women and one in four men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
“Historically under-reported, domestic violence victims have often suffered in silence, something which, in many cases, has had fatal consequences,” it said.
October is domestic violence awareness month and the Silent Witness March takes place in 23 countries worldwide.
Ania Milanowska of the CICC said in a statement that she sees the march as “a reminder that silence speaks louder than words”.
“Walking together with our colleagues, we remember those who lost their lives in acts of domestic violence, and work to end the silence about domestic violence and to empower those who still suffer in silence,” she said. “We remember your story and we remember your name. You are not alone.”
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, together with Councillor David Wight, joined in the march.
Karlene Bramwell, senior policy analyst with the Gender Affairs Unit, speaking on behalf of the Cayman Islands government, pointed out that “domestic violence not only affects the victim and the perpetrator or the immediate family members, but costs the entire society directly”.
Those costs to society are seen through the amounts of money government spends to provide health care, law enforcement, judicial services, intervention, housing and other social support services, she said, as well as the loss of productivity at a company or at the national level due to the effects on the labour force.
“Therefore, it is important that the community takes an active role in the prevention, and eradication of domestic violence,” Bramwell said.
Annie Multon, founding member of BPW, said she was pleased to see the turnout at the march.
“Back 20 years ago, you would not get a lot of people talking about domestic violence because of the stigma attached to it,” Moulton said. “Now I think that people are more aware of it, more and more people are coming out and speaking out about it and that was the whole purpose of starting this walk. I am certainly happy to see the attention it has gotten over the years and we will keep at it until we see an end to domestic violence in these islands.”
Domestic violence statistics
2018 – 2,200 cases reported
2019 (up to Sept.) – 1,900 cases reported
1-in-3 women experience domestic violence
1-in-4 men experience domestic violence