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Stepping out against domestic violence

Published: 
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Students Walk a Mile in Her Shoes against sexual assault last year.

The issue of domestic violence continues to plague T&T and for the first time, this country will join with thousands of men and women around the world for the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” march against domestic violence next Sunday.

This march adopts the old saying “”You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,” and asks participants—especially men—to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes.

The march, which will be held at Mandela Park, Port-of-Spain, at 3.30 pm on March 22, has been organised by Vidia Rampersad, 42, of Windsor Park, California, as part of her Arthur Lok Jack’s Graduate School of Business’s Events Management final project. She also has a BA in Human Resources.

Moved by the growing spate of domestic violence incidents plaguing T&T—the most recent which ended in a murder/suicide last week Saturday, Rampersad decided to join the battle to change the public’s approach to this critical problem and raise awareness about domestic violence. The theme of the march is—”It’s time to step up and step out against domestic violence.”

She said the issue of domestic violence was not new to T&T and that “we, as a nation, are too accepting of domestic violence.” She said that acceptance has reached to the point “where we still have police officers telling victims ‘we don’t meddle in husband and wife business’. And I have heard this complaint from more than one victim.”

Rampersad said young mothers were being gunned down in their homes, in front of their children.

“We have an icon like (journalist/broadcaster) Marcia Henville being murdered. Where is the outrage? Where is the outcry?” she asked.

She has also partnered with the T&T Shelter for Battered Women and Children (The Shelter) for the march and to provide support and information about domestic violence and dealing with the problem.

The cost of participating in the march is $50 and all funds will be donated to the shelter to help continue its work of providing a safe haven for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Rampersad, via email, said she stumbled upon the march while on Facebook and decided that she wanted to introduce the march here as well.

“I first saw a photo of a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event on Facebook and followed the link to their Web site www.walkamileinhershoes.org. 

I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be a part of,” she said.

Rampersad said the issue of domestic violence was very personal to her, having witnessed it as a child. She said since then she wanted to play a part in changing the violent culture that seems to be pervading homes in T&T.

“I grew up in the typical large extended East Indian family, living at my paternal grandparents home while going to school from my maternal grandparents’s home. As a child I used to hear the women talking about who got licks, whose husband tried to kill both himself and an aunt etc. 

“I even saw a relative bloody after her husband beat her, but I was too young to understand it all. But I never forgot, and as I grew older a lot that I did not understand started to make sense. 

“Needless to say, this is very personal for me,” Rampersad said. 

She explained that the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” march started as a form of protest against domestic violence and has grown to an International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault and Gender Violence.

“It is used worldwide to raise funds for shelters, and raise awareness. It is used to educate, to open communication about a difficult subject, and to change perspectives in an effort to reduce incidences of violence in our homes. These men found a fun way to deal with a serious issue, and have used it to raise millions of dollars in aid,” she said.

Rampersad said this was the first time the event would be held in Trinidad. She said when she purchased the licence she identified The Shelter as the beneficiary.

Rampersad is hopeful that next Sunday’s march will encourage the kind of awareness and action needed to adequately address the domestic violence situation in T&T.

“So if this event helps one victim to seek help, or help one family to feel a sense of healing, or help one man and woman to think of the other’s point of view, then I would consider it a success,” she added.

Public Affairs Officer at The Shelter, Elizabeth Talmer-Sankar said she was pleased to partner with Rampersad in this project.

While the march is intended for men to join with women and walk a mile in red high-heels, Talmer-Sankar said wearing the shoes were not as necessary as actually participating in the event.

“It is to create awareness and let people know that there is help available outside and how to get help. A lot of people do not know that there is help available out there, that we have a domestic violence hotline—800-SAVE (7283.) A lot of people do not know that, so the more information we can get outside that there is help out there, the number of people reached will increase,” she said.

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Speakers at the event include Diana Mahabir-Wyatt who made a huge impact in the fight against domestic violence, and Margaret Sampson-Browne, who continues the fight.

The agencies that will be present at the event will be the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development, the TTPS Victims and Witness Support Unit, Rape Crisis Centre, and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The Husbands Club T&T and the Single Fathers Association of T&T will also be present.

Men and women are invited to walk, however only those walking in heels will qualify for prizes—such as the first man and woman to cross the finish line, and the man finishing the walk in the highest heel and other categories.

Registration opens at 2 pm on the day of the walk or participants can pre-register.

For more information, you can reach Rampersad at 392-8008 or via e-mail: [email protected]

 

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