Saturday, February 24, 2018

Child ‘mentally scarred’ after beating

 Manager of the Victim and Witness Support Unit in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Margaret Sampson-Browne said yesterday she would support an investigation by the police into the Facebook beating incident of the 12-year-old girl by her mother Helen Bartlett. 

The girl had posted indecent photos of herself on Facebook, and the mother posted last Sunday a counter video with her being beaten. The video went viral and sparked national debate. 

In a telephone interview with the Express, Sampson-Browne said, “I am in support of the commissioner (Stephen Williams) who has launched an investigation. Whatever happens after the investigation, is up to the commissioner. I am in support of the stance the commissioner is taking.”

Asked to comment on the view that the father was “a  deadbeat dad”, she said: “I would prefer not to comment on that. I have not read anything about it. I just heard what the mother was saying.”  

Sampson-Browne, who said she recently attended a conference on parenting hosted by the Ministry of Social Development, added that she felt the child had been “psychologically scarred” by the incident.

 She said: “It is sad when society believes that behaviour is correct. She may have gotten more than 20 lashes. Every look at the camera that child got a lash. She is psychologically scarred for life.  Could she go to her mom when she has a problem? Could she walk on the road? If you are angry with a child for a situation, you find some ways to deal with it.”

She added: “It (beating and video) is wrong. I will never tolerate it. And I hope the relevant authorities deal with it. What will happen when she goes back to school? What we have on the video is not a healthy interaction between a parent and child. Until someone could tell me it is not, I will hold on to that view.” 

Sampson-Browne also queried whether the video would have gotten so many hits if it did not have “juice”. She said: “What about if the mother had made a video calmly stating “My daughter is doing X and Y. I am hurt. But I am caring for her.”

She sounded a warning, “We have to be careful if juice becomes infectious,” she said. 

On the flip side, Bartlett said she was “willing to  support any mother who disciplines her child within the context of discipline”.

She said: “Because you are parent, you have a choice. You must understand the punishment sometimes does not warrant the behaviour. We have to examine the community and the society. A child did not wake up in the morning and decide she would wake up and expose herself. She is a child.”  

Sampson-Browne sent a message to Bartlett. She said:  “Not because you made (gave birth) her means you will abuse her in that kind of way. Would you accept the father beating down on her? You (mother) did it and recorded  it. You have determined how she will live for the next three or four months. You have determined how she enters a school and how she forges a relationship with her peers and teachers.” 

Asked about people criticising her for labelling Bartlett’s actions as abusive, she said: “People are entitled to criticise. It is a lot of emotion. Sometimes your children can do something to get you angry. I am sorry for the society. The jury is out on that one.  I can’t accept it.”

In the move towards healing and reconciliation, Sampson-Browne said: “I am willing to work with the family because the whole family and community is traumatised. I am willing  to move them from sadness to sanity.”     —Michelle Loubon