Nowhere to get help before it’s too late
Love and care
In the midst of a kind of pain that only she could experience but not explain, young mother Okilia Mayers tries to come to terms with the gruesome and macabre death of her two babies at the hands of a man who loved them. Trying to make sense of the connection between love and this grievous, hateful act, she speaks of her own abuse, not able to imagine its cruel segue into the lives of her children and their eventual deaths.
Through her story, she identifies some of the challenges she faced. The economic reality and the well-being of her family demanded that she worked. In order to work, she needed someone to look after her little ones; childcare that was accessible, safe, perhaps round the clock and affordable. In the absence of such a service, who better to look after them than their father.
Grief-stricken she spoke of her relationship with 33-year-old Barry Karamath; his insecurities, threats and abuse, her tolerance and the action she took. The guilt she feels manifests in her self-questioning, whether she did the right thing, convinced by the outcome that she did not. Thinking out loud, she advises others to act sooner than she did. If only she knew then what she has had to learn the hard way. But who teaches us anything about relationships, intimate or otherwise; how to form, nurture, maintain and, where necessary, how to end them?
Into the darkness
Barry, in his darkest time, those last, desperate moments, spoke through his texts to her. Messages which can be translated into—see what you made me do—I will punish you—hurt you by taking what is most precious to you. They will be with me and you can never think of them without thinking of me. Now, I finally have your attention, you will never forget me. In his mind, this final act sealed his power over her forever. One neighbour, refusing to let him be defined only by this dastardly act, shares another side of the man. There is good in all of us. According to her, he had been crying out for help but no one took him seriously.
An angry public describes him as they have so many others: demon, beast, evil and not human. In essence, he is not of us; the separation must be made because we are better than he is. Little or no serious thought is given to his history, his state of mind or what horror of horrors would have perpetuated such a legacy. Forensic investigations will yield criminal evidence to establish culpability and cause of death. His pathway to peril remains irrelevant.
Not in my yard
In Matura, the community reputation is defended; “these people” come from outside to give us a bad name. The subtext suggests that they did not belong; he could have killed them somewhere else, why did he have to come here. Well, he came for healing, to be touched and cleansed, to be given hope. He knew that all was not well with him that he needed help. The symbolism of the bush bath is powerful. Where in his community could he go for the special attention he so craved, a closer, different kind of engagement, without being laughed at and denigrated; to whom could he turn to be heard and treated confidentially, if not anonymously?
Stories converge to lay blame. The mother is further victimised, her past and present blurred, stereotypes hold fast; she should have known better. These women look for men who like bling and wear pants below their bottoms. Persons who have never laid eyes on either party pronounce. It’s so easy or maybe just convenient to forget our history, even our recent past.
Almost 40 years ago, a young woman, desperate and in need of help, took her three young children to the sea at Carenage and drowned two of them because she had only two hands. I can name so many others since then. Yet today, the head of the Task Force for the Protection of Children states, and is supported in the view, that this could not have been prevented. We should be so ashamed. This family was already in the system; this supposed abstraction which continues to fail our citizens.
I have moved past remembering the name and story of each child killed over the years. But I cannot move past our failure to provide basic amenities with the financial and other resources at our disposal. How difficult can it be to assign two to six units in every State housing settlement to the relevant ministry, to provide services related to family and community well-being?
Outside of Government housing areas, properties must be sourced and outfitted for this purpose. These can be used to temporarily house victims of
violence, families in crisis, those transitioning and childcare for pre- and school-aged children. Persons in those communities can be trained to meet identified needs and attached to those programmes, working alongside professionals who know how to get the job done.
We have made this sad journey so many times; will we ever learn? I rest my pain upon the altar. Ase.
Verna St Rose Greaves