Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Loverne Henry

On a mission defending the rights of victims


Loverne Henry. Photos Ishmael Salandy

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She is little known, yet she has already made a great impact on the wider society of Trinidad and Tobago. And she continues to do so. Loverne Henry is a fierce defender of the rights of the victims of crime; indeed, she is the champion of their rights. A victim of crime herself, she uses her own personal experience to help other crime victims. I guess selfless is the best way to describe Henry, founder and executive committee member of the Trinidad and Tobago Victim Support Foundation (TNTVSF), selfless and possessing of an indomitable spirit.

I asked Henry to tell me about herself and she described herself in the following way, "I am a mother, wife and a businesswoman just trying to fulfil purpose while we're here, that's what it's really about now… You get perspective after trauma… Everything just changes. You can no longer go back to being the old Loverne…" Henry referred here to the November 2009 home invasion, robbery, physical and sexual assault that she and her family suffered. There were three attackers. Henry was gang raped, while her husband was brutally beaten and left for dead. Her two-year-old was upstairs when it all happened. The event dominated the news headlines for about a week.

"I had just come home from a Human Resources course that I was doing and I was four months pregnant at the time. I was chatting with my husband in the living room when they broke in. Your brain has to assimilate is this real, is it not, what is going on… There was the usual, 'get down on the ground'. Henry paused at this point and lamented that, "It feels like I am telling a lifetime movie." She continued, "They were armed. They had cutlasses; they kept shouting 'shoot him (her husband)!'" She recalled how long that evening seemed and how panicked she was for her unborn child (the baby was full-term and she is now 2-years-old). The interview was an emotionally overwhelming one.

"Telling this story doesn't get any easier, but each time I tell it, it helps someone to be ok. And it helps making the pain of reliving it ok," she stated. "Life just stopped. It's just not where you envision yourself as a young woman… but there is a but; we are alive… and that's when my butterfly began." The logo for the Trinidad and Tobago Victim Support Foundation is a butterfly, and it is so because a transformation began in Henry that year (significantly, when her family was attacked, the logo for her baby's nursery was also a butterfly). "The Trinidad and Tobago Victim Support Foundation was born out of reality not because of any bureaucratic project. It came out of literal pain and seeing the need that victims of crime have for a social support in order to move past what has happened to them. We do not have a structure in this country that is sensitive to victims, from all pillars of society." And that is why Henry continues to tell her story. TNTVSF is non-profit and non-governmental and helps with therapeutic, financial and other necessary support for victims of crime. They are, also, involved in legislative advocacy for laws that are victim friendly.

"Every single aspect of who you think you are or where you think you're going changes because you've been affected mentally, emotionally, physically, financially and even spiritually because then you begin to ask God questions. I do not think there is any area of your life that is not affected; even your relationships change…It's as if your paints fell while you were painting, they're all mixed up and you don't know how to put it back together." Henry knows this trauma and disorientation better than anyone.

Henry's concern, however, is not just victims of crime, but the wider society. For her, people must be educated on how to deal with victims. Sometimes it just requires common sense and some lack that. "People naturally do not know what to say to you, whether or not to hug you. Staying away and avoiding us is not helping us. We need the support… You get reactions from one extreme to the next, silent support is so needed. Even if you don't know what to say, just cook a meal and bring it. You don't have to put your foot in your mouth… Everyone comes with their own ideas of how they can help. They don't ask how they can help." This particular issue seemed to irk her the most.

"I didn't think I'd be in the papers for this, for my business career sure," quipped Henry as the interview drew to a close. Henry holds an MBA from the Australian Institute of Business through the School of Higher Education located in San Juan and San Fernando. In fact, in 2007, she started her own business in event management. Before, she had spent 12 years working as an administrative officer in the banking industry. Also, she presently teaches event management. I guess if one had asked her at that time, how she envisioned her life, she would probably have said having a successful business career and celebrity status for her stellar event management skills.

I suppose that is everyone's story, in a sense. Does life ever work out the way we plan it? And when things go wrong and even terribly wrong, how does an individual respond? I guess the key is to not cry over spilt milk, pick up the pieces and move on. I find that harsh, but that is what it comes down to. Life is what you make it. Henry would agree.

Author's note: Anyone interested in finding out more about the Trinidad and Tobago Victim Support Foundation and about volunteering as a counselor or in some other way, may visit its website at www.tntvsf.org. TNTVSF, also, has some paintings on sale from its recent auctions.

Author's e-mail: akholder22@aol.com