A Mother's Nghtmare

St Ann woman relates horror of contending with child's menacing father

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Sunday Observer Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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TEN years is a long time to be living in constant fear that the father of your child could eventually kill you. But what is even worse is knowing that neither the police nor the courts can do anything to stop him.

That has been the nightmare of a 37-year-old woman from St Ann who has reported that the father of her 11-year-old daughter has physically attacked her on several occasions ever since she broke off their four-year visiting relationship.

“I have been in a constant battle to protect my life and the well-being of my daughter since 2009. Me and my 11-year-old daughter have been abused physically, and now it is taking an emotional toll on her. My aim is to reach out to someone who is willing to listen.

“I have been through many situations where I almost lost my life because of him, and he can get very violent. I had to change my position at work so that I could work nine-to-five because he often stays near my house at a shop and watches me when I come in. I have to be living like a hermit; from work to home,” she told the Jamaica Observer. “From 2009 until now I am basically living in fear.”

The frustrated mother, who asked not to be named, told the Sunday Observer that before she ended the relationship, the father of her child was generally caring, although there were glaring instances of abuse.

“At first he was kind and caring toward me, but he would always get into confrontations with other people and I would just overlook it because he wasn't abusive towards me at the time, and I thought it was the other people's fault or it was just a man thing, although there were one and two abuses toward me,” she said.

“The first time he physically abused me, he wanted me to come to his house, but I had already made plans and I told him I couldn't come. He came to my house and asked me to come outside and I went. He started saying I don't want to spend any time with him and I am always making excuses, and that I am up to something, and then he hit me in my face and kicked me to the ground. He dragged me along the roadway, and it was a gentleman that was passing who came to my rescue. After that happened, he said he was sorry but that I was the one who caused it because I should have come with him, and he didn't mean to hurt me and that he loved me.

“On another occasion, he slammed me against a wall when I was two months' pregnant. I had to go to the hospital. He would beat me up, for example, if somebody told him they saw a man come to the house, or he called me and I didn't answer, or if I didn't come from work the exact time I was supposed to, or if he told me to do something or he said something to me and him say me 'back answer' him, then he would get violent,” the woman related.

“He would call me worthless; he would say very disrespectful things, call me a whore, saying that nobody doesn't want me except for him,” she revealed.

Eventually, the woman said she decided to end their relationship, but this only triggered his attempts to get back at her.

“His main objective is to hurt me because I left him, and him constantly telling people that is me mash up him life. So it's all about revenge. I remember one day seeing him on my road lurking, and he said to me that I will never live in peace.

“This is like a Lifetime movie. You have to be there to see what is happening. But people see what is happening and nobody is paying attention,” the woman told the Sunday Observer.

She explained that she eventually went to the parish court to get a protection order, but complained that the judge simultaneously granted her child's father visitation rights on the grounds that he needed to be in his child's life.

“I have had two protection orders against him so far, and the court still gave him visitation rights. The first time I went to court, in 2009, the judge said that because my child was so young it wasn't good for her not to have her father in her life, and he wouldn't want to deny him the opportunity of being in his child's life,” she said.

She complained that although she has the protection order, the piece of paper has done nothing to keep him from stalking her home.

“I live with my 80-year-old grandmother and my daughter, and on numerous occasions he has tried to break into the house. He has hidden in my yard to lay wait [waylay] me, and I know what he is capable of,” she said.

“I am so frustrated because I am living in a place where everybody turns a blind eye. It seems like everybody is just giving him a [slap] on the wrist. I have a protection order against this man, he should not be in my yard at 10 o'clock at night antagonising me. He was never charged for anything and he still walks the streets.

“What kind of life am I living? All the police can tell me is to go to the court, and I already spent years in the court, and every time I go to the court all they do is give him visitation,” the mother vented.

In the meantime, she said her daughter has been traumatised by her father's ongoing erratic behaviour and attempts to kidnap her.

“My daughter has been robbed of her childhood as, over the years she has to be constantly sheltered and monitored. On several occasions he has gone to my daughter's school and tried to take her when it wasn't his time for visitation. My child doesn't know what it is like to go outside and play because she is fearful that he might pass by and grab her and run away with her, and he has done it before,” the mother claimed.

She said that on that occasion they ended up before a judge who only extended her protection order, while her child's father retained his visitation rights.

“My second protection order was in 2015, when he was getting his visitation and one day he didn't want to drop her off at the police station and asked me to pick her up, basically trying to get me to come to his house. I refused, and so eventually he sent her on a taxi to my house and my grandmother collected her. Shortly after that he showed up at the house saying he wanted to speak with her for a moment. What he did that evening when she came out to talk to him, he grabbed her and sped off with her in a car. When my grandmother came outside all she saw was the car speeding away,” the mother said.

“I am afraid to even go on the road and my daughter refuses to walk on the road because she saw him last Saturday. He loiters down to the end of the street and she is afraid of what he might do.

“There was an incident last Saturday, where he lay waited [waylaid] us on the road and he tried to get at her, but luckily there was a police officer directing traffic. She broke down in tears; she was crying because just as she was getting over everything, here he comes again.”

“Every time we have our counselling sessions and it seems as if we are getting somewhere, he appears and whenever we are walking in the community and she sees him, or she hears someone calling his name, she starts to panic,” the mother said.

At the same time, the woman complained that law enforcement and the court system have not taken her plight seriously.

“Every time I go to the police, they tell me basically that they can't do anything until he does something. So basically if he physically assaults me, I would have to go back over the process of reporting it, and then go back to the court's office to file another [complaint] to bring him back to court and I cannot do that anymore,” she said, adding that “the general attitude of the officers has been that 'is man and woman story', and they give comments like, 'is wah mi did see pon him before', and 'if mi did know dat a so di boy did stay before why you deh wid him'”.

“So the attitude you get is that it's your fault. That is how they treat the situation. Or they make it seem like, oh, we just a cuss now, we soon alright again. They have never considered that I have a child with this man,” said the woman.

She also recounted that the last time her child's father came banging on her grille she had a tough time trying to reach the nearest police station. That was last November.

“I didn't hear from him for a while, and he called my phone out of the blue demanding money and saying he was coming to the house. I called the police station and I wasn't getting through. So I called an inspector and still didn't get through,” she said.

“When they eventually came they asked him why he was there, asked me for the court documents and eventually asked him to leave. As the police officers leave, surely enough, he came back.”

“There he was again, banging down my grille and tearing the mesh covering from the window. So I call the police again and put on a pot of water, because I said to myself since nobody is there to help me, I will help myself. The police came back and they wrestled with him, trying to restrain him until he eventually got away with the handcuffs on,” she told the Sunday Observer.

“Is like the man could have come into my house and kill me and my daughter and nothing would come out of it,” she said.

The mother said that it was only after the man attacked her in the township where she had gone to drop off her daughter that the judge finally decided to suspend his visitation, pending a psychiatric evaluation.

“I had retained a lawyer about two years ago because one Saturday, when he would normally get her, he physically abused me in the town. I went to report it at the station and the police officer told me that it was in the hands of the court. That is when I returned to the court to let them know that I cannot put myself and my child in danger, because this is what this man is carrying on with.

“The judge finally started to listen and they suggested that he sees a [mental professional] and his visitation was eventually suspended in December 2017, pending a psychiatric evaluation. That's how the judge decided to grant me full custody and extended my protection order,” said the mother.

Now, desperate and at her wits' end, the woman said this is her final attempt to bring to the authorities the imminent threat she and her daughter face.

“I am very scared, because I know what he is capable of. and right now I feel helpless because having a piece of paper is not protection at all. And the response time of the police is next to nothing, because the situation, when you call the station, they give you all sorts of excuses, and by the time them come him already gone hide to come back.

“I am therefore appealing, crying out to the relevant organisations to intervene and act,” she said.


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