Domestic violence: a Christmas storyPOSTED: 12/17/13 10:02 PM
It’s the middle of the night, when I am suddenly awakened from my sleep by the ringing of my phone. As usual when I am on call, I immediately pick up the phone. I am informed that I should drive to an address to investigate a case of ill-treatment. I take a quick shower, get dressed and in the meantime contact my colleague, who also has been called. My wife, who has become used to these emergency calls in the evening and at night, asks me what type of call I am responding to. While getting dressed, I think of the many reports of violence my colleagues and I investigated. What lays ahead of us, and what will we do or have to do?
I step into the unmarked police car and drive to the police headquarters where my colleague is already waiting for me. We drive to the location where we meet the colleagues of the Uniform Division who are waiting for us inside the house. There, we find havoc. The furniture, a wardrobe, a mirror and a table are destroyed and scattered across the living room. I hear the voice of a speaking loudly toward a woman. The man has drunk too much alcohol and possibly used other substances. I look towards the bedroom. Its door is totally destroyed and lies in pieces on the floor.
In the bedroom, I look into the eyes of three children. I see fear in their eyes. The small children cling to my leg and I see the tears rolling down their cheeks. It breaks my heart. Then my colleague and I see the woman sitting on a chair in another bedroom. Her right eye is swollen closed and blood flows from her mouth. She also has bruises on her upper body and arms. By asking her questions, we hope to hear what exactly happened.
For years the man and the woman have lived together; they are not married. They have three children, one of them from a different father. The man accused the woman of having an affair with another man, which afterwards turned out not to be true. After the man confronted the woman, the situation got out of hand and he has beaten her badly.
At our request, colleagues of the Uniform Division arrest the man. The suspect refuses to go to the police station and resists because he does not want to cooperate. Because of his excessive use of alcohol, the colleagues put him in handcuffs for his safety and for the safety of others. I hear him shouting towards the lady saying that he is not finished with her. When the man is gone I speak with the victim. The first thing to do is to get her to the hospital to treat her injuries. The three children accompany their mother to the hospital in our unmarked car. After the examination by a doctor it appears that the woman has many old scars all over her body. When I ask how she got these scars, she begins to cry.
The man has assaulted her several times in the past. She is afraid of him and because she depends on him, she has never dared to report this to the police. The woman takes care of the children and household and has no income. After her treatment at the hospital, my colleague and I drive to the police headquarters with the children. Meanwhile it is 03.00 a.m. on the clock. The little children sit peacefully in a chair next to my desk, half asleep. One of them, the smallest, crawls onto my lap. The woman, with stitches to her right eye and bandages on her other injuries says she did not want to return home. She is afraid that the man will soon be released and that he will go at it once again. I realize that she is reluctant to report the ill-treatment. She says that as long as her man does not drink and is not jealous, he is a good man and a good father. But, lately he has little to no work and; there is a lot of tension in the family. The woman wants to think about the future.
The only solution left is to let the woman and her children stay at Safe Haven. I contact Safe Haven and hear that there are some spaces available, so we take them there. My colleague and I take the children out of the car. They begin to cry and cling to us. I feel pity and a strong sense of anger comes over me. I am angry at the man and the father of that family. I feel helpless and my mind wanders to the Christmas Story where my colleague and I as herders and the mother as Mary with her children stay at an inn (Safe Haven). The mother and the children are well taken care of and could at least get some rest there, but for how long?
On my way home my thoughts go back to the many violent crimes on this small but beautiful island of Sint Maarten. I have been working here for about two years and I have been through many harrowing cases of domestic violence. I am worried about the next few months because I heard that Safe Haven is full and has no spaces available for new victims.
It’s not a value judgment but a fact. I think that due to my extensive work experience at the detective department of the Sint Maarten police force I can say that we the police, social services, child care services and not the least the government should work hand in hand to contain and diminish the domestic violence.
My Christmas message to you is: Treat everyone with respect and do your best to not always solve your problems with the use of violence.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2014.
Gerard van Dam
The author is detective inspector at the general investigation department of the police force of Sint Maarten.
Note: This story is fictional and based on my personal experiences of the many reports of domestic violence the author has investigated.
So ask yourselves, is the bridge really necessary at this moment in time or could that money have been better spent on expanded facilities for domestic abuse victims, domestic violence legislation, social and educational programme and a whole host of other things that would directly benefit our society. Children who grow up in this type of environment stand a greater chance of engaging in the same type of behavior. Our society is failing and rearing dysfunctional families. No amount of bridges and world class airports and harbors is going to a dress nor change this fact.
A very touching and well-written story. Thank you.