May 17th, 2023
Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Founder
Colin Mitchell, Chairman
Sherron Harford, Vice Chair
Domestic violence is an endemic societal ill which creates a harrowing and often unseen reality for many women here in Trinidad and Tobago. It was in response to this dire problem that The Shelter, a charitable organisation which takes in and seeks to help victims of domestic abuse, was opened by the formidable humanitarian advocate, Mrs. Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. Helping hundreds of women in distress since its inception in 1987, The Shelter continues to offer both a temporary safe haven to those escaping domestic violence, as well as a range of services to help victims escape from dangerous situations, heal from trauma, and get back on their feet.
The Shelter works alongside various agencies, including 800-SAVE, The Rape Crisis Centre, The Coallition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and The Gender Based Violence Police Unit, who refer potential residents to the safe house. Once the victims have been able to escape from their domestic stituations they are offered not only a safe space, but a holistic programme to help them to overcome their trauma and prepare for successful re-entry into society.
“We work with all of our residents on a case-by-case basis,” says Sherron Harford, vice-chair of The Shelter. “When victims are first admitted to The Shelter, they are given psychological counseling within the first 24 hours, and then our team of social workers and psychologists work together to decide what the next best step for the victim would be.” These individualised plans aim to help the victims to begin to process their trauma, heal from their own experiences, and learn practical steps to be able to support themselves and their children without having to rely on the abusive partner.
Even though many may associate domestic violence with purely physical abuse, the problem is a complex and multilayered one affecting victims on the physical, emotional, and mental front.
“A common misconception is that domestic violence is only physical, but it could also include emotional, sexual, family, and financial abuse. Domestic abuse is also very complicated on an emotional level because yes it is trauma, but it is trauma that started with a love story. So, not only do victims have to process the trauma of the abuse, but also the trauma of a failed love affair,” adds Harford.
The major challenge faced by The Shelter, which houses up to 20 women and children at a time, and provides not only psychological counselling, but also food, clothing and of course temporary accomodation for the residents, is finding adequate funding to carry out its mission. In spite of all the work that it does, The Shelter is given a monthly stipend from the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services of TT$7,500. The Shelter must therefore rely on both private funding as well as grants from international humanitarian organisations such as the United Nations in order to carry out its important work.
“We want to take our ladies from victims, to survivors, to thrivers,” says Harford, “The most important thing that I would like any victim of domestic violence to know is that it’s not their fault and there is help available. We encourage all those who need help to reach out to us or to any of the other services available. Nobody facing this sort of abuse on a daily basis can go through this alone, and that’s what we are here for.”
by Paul Hadden
For more information on The Shelter or if you are interested in assisting with their efforts, please email [email protected]
The Shelter for Battered Women and Children was established in 1987 as a safe haven for women and children who are victims of all forms of domestic violence. Our mission is to support victims in their transition from victims to survivors and survivors into success stories. The Shelter operates a safe house, granted to it by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, providing accommodation for residents, staff quarters, a counselling room, children’s activity room, and training room.