Experts offer advice to deal with trauma of killings

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne,

SPOKESMEN for several agencies on Wednesday reflected the nation’s deep trauma at the horrific decapitation of four year old Amarah Lallitte at her Arouca home on April 8 by a male relative of her mother.

Police Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, who heads the Special Victims Unit, deeply lamented the tragedy, talking to Newsday.

“It is a really shocking incident. My heart was so heavy. It was filled with grief and disbelief at this unimaginable tragedy that has befallen our community.

“I am just asking parents to be ever vigilant. Be aware of who you bring around your children.”

She said sometimes relationships do not work out but in general a woman does not necessarily need a man in her life to complete her life, especially if she has children.

“Be aware of who you bring around your children,” she repeated.

Guy-Alleyne said parents and caregivers have a duty to protect their children from harm by all means necessary.

“Pay attention, parents. Intentionally.

“I really send out condolences to the family, friends, well-wishers and the entire nation and the world, because when that cry occurred it affected everyone. It sent us into a deep pit. It affected everyone.”

Guy-Alleyne reiterated her ongoing call to members of the public, that if you see something, say something.

“It doesn’t matter if it is your child, the neighbour’s child or your relative’s child.

“We as a nation, when we see or hear or even suspect a child to be in a dangerous or an abusive situation, we are asking persons to come forward and report it so that the authorities could intervene in some way or the other, be it the police, Children’s Authority or Ministry of Social Development.”

The Children’s Authority in a statement urged adults to keep children out of their own disputes.

“The Children’s Authority is deeply saddened by today’s horrific and brutal murder of a child.

“Domestic violence continues to be a significant issue that goes beyond the primary victims as it impacts the entire family.”

CEO Sheldon Cyrus said, “Children are not to be used as bargaining chips in relationships or as collateral to sway an argument.

“Some persons continue to treat children as objects, things with which they can do as they please instead of treating them as actual human beings full of promise and potential.” He vowed to help bring perpetrators of illegal acts of violence against children to justice.

“While it is not easy for victims of domestic violence to reach out when they need help, I urge them to do so.

“I also want to encourage their friends and family members to make reports if they are aware of what is going on in the home”.

The statement said domestic violence and child abuse were often linked.

Cyrus urged parents, caregivers and families to seek support if experiencing challenges. He cited the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services 800-1673, National Family Services Division 623-2608 ext 6701-6711, TT Association of Psychologists 717-8827, Student Support Services Division of the Ministry of Education 724-1010 and Childline 131. “Reports of abuse should be made to the Police at 999 or the Authority at 996.”

Noting April as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, he said child abuse was preventable and everyone has a duty to speak up against it.

The TT Council of Evangelical Churches in a statement on Wednesday strongly condemned the murders of Amarah Lallitte plus Crystal Harricharan, a 34 year old mother of two, shot dead by a gunman while sitting in her car at Vistabella. “We express profound shame and horror at the barbarity inflicted upon this innocent child and the callous murder of the young mother of two, who was shot repeatedly as she sat in her vehicle. These murders and several other acts of criminal activity have deeply shaken our nation.”

The council urged “swift and decisive action” to bring the perpetrators to justice, and urged people to renew their reverence for God and to uphold the sanctity of human life.

Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister for Gender and Child Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, on Tuesday said Amarah’s death had “immersed our entire nation in anguish.”

She said, “For the parents, guardians, caretakers, and families in distressing situations, I once again petition you to seek help when faced with overwhelming challenges or emotions. “Our national social support system offers free counselling, mediation, food, shelter, and even medical care assistance.” She noted The Children’s Authority Hotline at 996 or 800-2014, Childline at 131 or 800-4321, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-SAVE (7283).

Lucy Gabriel, head of Lifeline (toll-free 800-5588) which helps the despairing and suicidal, spoke to Newsday about Amarah’s decapitation.

“It will affect people very badly because it is stunning.” She said despite rampant crime, TT nationals don’t see themselves as doing particularly violent acts.

“We do not do certain things. The thought that someone would do that to a child, whatever else has gone before…”

She explained how people would likely react to Amarah’s murder. “They will have a first reaction where they will run around, the will talk, they will say ra-ra-ra-ra. Then they will say nothing. They will drop it. They will forget about it, because they don’t really want to deal with the thought in their mind that this could happen in Trinidad.”

Reports of a child’s beheading were very traumatising people who would now just “blank it out of your head”, Gabriel said.

‘There will be a flurry of supposed activity and then nothing, because people do not want to deal with it but the nice, material things of life. It will be a nine-day wonder.”

Gabriel said, “For the (counselling) service that is needed you are looking at a man who is sitting very quietly, who is filled with rage and is planning how he is going to kill his partner and their children and then himself.” She said many existing services do not reach that person, who likely would have spoken to no one before his crime.

Gabriel hoped a closer look would now reveal very subtle signs of the killer’s state of mind before Amarah’s murder. “He didn’t just wake up one morning and get there.”

“He is filled with rage. You have to convince him to talk to you. For us in Lifeline, that is the target. You have to make it that he feels safe enough to talk to someone.”

Likewise an abuse victim need to be able to access police help quickly, she said. Gabriel suspected Amarah’s mother previously faced domestic violence by the suspect, even as some women regularly deny abusive acts perpetrated on them by an an otherwise silent abuser.

She suggested people on the scene of Amarah’s murder, such as police officers and neighbours, likely now need psychological counselling.