ONE of my closest friends had a baby this week. Tiny, fragile and instantly loved, I looked at this brand new person in her doting mother’s arms and knew this little girl would never lack for love in her life.
Watching her fat little pink face I was instantly overwhelmed with happiness but I also felt a little sad, not for her but for another little girl.
My heart hurt for Mukeisha Maynard who like my friend’s daughter needed nothing but love and care. Sadly she did not receive what she needed the most. Instead her eight short years were marked by violence and instability.
As the details of Mukeisha’s life slowly unfold in the news, I like every other Trinbagonian have been wondering how all of this was allowed to happen. How was a man who had been arrested and charged for assaulting his then partner and eight-month-old Mukeisha allowed to have those children living with him?
How was this man who was reported by his sister for suspected child abuse, allowed to have those children live with him?
How was a man arrested, charged and out on bail for rape allowed to have those children live with him?
“Chances are even if that child has been in that abusive environment for a long period of time, whatever is happening to them becomes normalised and they very rarely see what is happening to them as abuse.”
A report was made to the police by his sister accusing him of child abuse less than a year ago on April 6, 2019. Officers who responded said the children showed no physical signs of violence and denied their father was beating them.
So let’s pump the brake on that one. If I was a child being beaten, starved and isolated, as their aunt alleged; and a stranger, even one dressed in a police uniform, came and asked me if my father, a person who I have been conditioned by fear to be loyal to, was abusing me, chances are I would say no too.
When it comes to matters of abuse, especially child abuse involving a special needs child, investigating such a report isn’t as clear cut as one visit and asking the victim if they are being abused.
Chances are even if that child has been in that abusive environment for a long period of time, whatever is happening to them becomes normalised and they very rarely see what is happening to them as abuse.
“As a mother I cannot understand, but I am not in her shoes. In her shoes, she is a woman who has been subject to serve physical abuse, she has eight children, she has a child with special needs, she is a woman who also needed help, she is a woman who I am sure bears more mental scars than physical ones.”
It is unclear as to whether that report, or even the first report of domestic violence against Michael Maynard, was properly followed up on or if they simply got swallowed up in our backlogged, social and justice systems.
Fingers keep getting pointed and blame continues to pass. Mukeisha’s own mother described the father as a “Monster” and was quick to show nearby journalists scars he left on her body. She said she was frightened of him and tried to get her children back (originally she thought they were living with his mother) but was unable to do so as he threatened her. Like everyone else I wanted to shake her and ask her how could she leave her children with a man who she admitted savagely beat her and caused her daughter brain damage.
As a mother I cannot understand, but I am not in her shoes. In her shoes, she is a woman who has been subject to serve physical abuse, she has eight children, she has a child with special needs, she is a woman who also needed help, she is a woman who I am sure bears more mental scars than physical ones.
Like her daughter she too has been failed, and while I want to join in the masses of those calling for her to be “locked up too,” I know no jail sentence can be worse than the grief of losing a child in such a horrific way and suffering the guilt of not doing enough to have saved that child.
Members of Mukeisha’s family and residents living near her home in Kelly Village, all admitted they knew of the abuse she and her brother faced. They all seem to have some excuse as to why they didn’t speak up or continue to put pressure on law enforcement to do something.
I like to call it the “Mind Meh Own Business” syndrome and it’s rampant in our nation. We have lost our sense of community and no longer are our brother’s keepers. We turn a blind eye to the injustices and crimes that happen under noses and later when it all hits the fan, find some excuse to absolve ourselves of responsibility.
Amongst the blame game and “shoulda, coulda, woulda,” Chairman of the Children’s Authority Hanif Benjamin echoed the sentiment that we as a society not only failed Mukeisha but all children who are abused.
Benjamin said the reality is we as a society need to report it as we see it, we need to access how we treat children and set up preventative measures to ensure no child suffers the same fate as Mukeisha.
The children of TT are in danger. The Child Protection Unit said in a release that so far for 2020, 29 people have been charged for 56 offenses. That’s insane! While our Government officials sit in the refurbished Red House arguing semantics and prepare to sway voters, they are failing to address this crisis.
More needs to be done.
The taboo of abuse needs to be lifted, people need to feel safe to report it and our officers need more training and more resources. We need more accessible support services in every community centre for parents, especially those dealing with special needs children.
Mukeisha Maynard is a name I hope TT never forgets. While we cannot go back in time and change what has happened, maybe Mukeisha’s life would not have been in vain. Maybe now with her in our hearts we can act together as a community and push for more to be done to protect our children.
If you are a victim of abuse or suspect someone you know is being abused call the Children’s Authority Hotline at 800-2014 or even better message the police commissioner to deal with them at 482-GARY.