Dionne Warwick’s domestic violence address attracts a crowd

POSTED: 05/9/11 1:51 PM

“Start talking and do not ever just take it”

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – “My first challenge is: break down that door. Go to the authorities; tell your family about it. Start talking and don’t ever just take it. Stop the pain, stop the misery.” That was the main thrust of a speech by pop legend Dionne Warwick on Saturday evening at a well-attended meeting organized by the Peridot Foundation at the Bel Air Community Center about domestic violence.

Warwick proved to be a smooth crowd pleaser, and she managed effortlessly to lace her very serious message with a healthy dose of humor. Among the audience were Governor Drs. Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Public Health and Women’s Affairs Minister Dr. Cornelius de Weever.

Warwick described domestic violence as “a public disgrace.” The singer said that she does not believe it is a private issue. “This is an international epidemic, and I will issue some challenges tonight to help eradicate it in St. Maarten.”

Warwick said that domestic violence comes in all sorts of forms – sexual, physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological. On the issue of rape, she commented, “That is potentially life threatening. Gender based violence and the spread of HIV/Aids intersect. Worldwide, more than three women are murdered by their partners every day.”

In the Caribbean, Warwick added, alcohol and drugs abuse affect the occurrence of domestic violence. “This does not only affect the abused partners, it also affects children.”

But the main thing is, Warwick said, that probably half of all domestic violence cases are never reported. “This is largely done in secret, and it is a criminal act.”

Warwick’s powerful challenge to women to break the silence and to start talking was followed by a challenge to men. “Look at your mothers, your wives, your girlfriends, your nieces. You are there to protect them. Help stop the abuse. I am not only talking to abusive men, I also address men who are not abusive. If you learn about it, report the crimes of these cowards to the authorities.”

Warwick dismissed the macho notion that women are inferior to men. “That is an outdated idea. Men use domestic violence to put women in their place, to discipline them.”

And, she added rather mournful, I have heard all the stories and the excuses. “It is only a black eye, a slap, or a kick. But broken bones lead to fear and anxiety, to social isolation.”

Warwick noted that domestic violence by women is on the rise, but even though one might think that men had it coming, the singer disapproves. “I say that this is wrong, just as domestic violence committed by men is wrong.”

Domestic violence is, Warwick stated, a control issue. “They do this to control, to get what they want. It is as very conscious decision. And then they say stuff like, well, she asked for it. Or, she provoked me; I did not really mean it. But there can be no toleration for violence. And don’t say – this is none of my business, because it is your business.”

Warwick said that it takes women on average between 5 and 8 years to leave an abusive relationship. “And when they arrive at that point, it is not over yet. Then comes the stalking, the verbal abuse, and finally murder. And those men say, I have learned my lesson, or I promise it won’t happen again. But the violence always returns, and we need to shame those who practice abuse.”

Warwick disposed of another faulty notion. “They say that abusers have a problem communicating, that they are actually expressing their feelings. To that I say: hogwash.”

The Peridot foundation put together a program that highlighted its plight to battle domestic violence, and at the same time it honored its keynote speaker. The Dance Theater of St. Maarten with Susha Hien and Indhira Marlin gave a performance  on Warwick hits like That’s What Friends are For, and Do You Know the Way to san Jose.

Before that Lena Brown brought a powerful rendition of the St. Maarten song that did not only earn her a round of applause but later on also a compliment from Dionne Warwick. Steel pan artists Neville York and Richeline Arrindell gave the evening, after Pastor Royston Philbert’s convocation, its musical note.

The Peridot foundation celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Founder drs. Gracita Arrindell welcomed Warwick and brought the highlights of her fifty-year career in the music industry to the audience’s attention. With 60 charted hits, and more than 100 million records sold, Warwick has made her name. Don’t Make Me Over was her first hit back in 1962; then followed songs like Walk On by and anyone Who Has a Heart. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the world hit That’s What Friends Are For.

“On the weekend of Mother’s day, Dionne could have been anywhere in the world, but she chose to be with us in St. Maarten to lend her voice to the cause of the battle against domestic violence,” Arrindell said.

Women’s Affairs Minister Cornelius de Weever, who would later elegantly jump of his chair to help clear the podium for the Dance Theater, said in a brief address that Warwick’s willingness to lend her voice to the cause spoke volumes. “This is the eve of Mother’s Day,” the minister said. “I wish everybody a happy Mother’s Day, but I also think that every day ought to be a mother’s day. Each family is sacred, small and big. When families fall apart, our society falls apart.”

De Weever referred to the beheading of the Peridot statue on Bush Road. “This statue is a symbol of this struggle against domestic violence. The Peridot foundation and its cause must prevail.”

The minister called on citizens to reflect on their activities and their consequences. “When we get home we have a take good look in the mirror, and look at our own actions. I want to thank the Peridot Foundation for the role it plays, for what its members say and do. I want to thank you for the continued work to raise awareness about domestic violence.”


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