Jamaicans urged to take violence by family members seriously

Prime Minister Andrew Holness has called on Jamaicans to take acts of violence by family members seriously.

He was speaking as he visited Gwendolyn McKnight, who is mourning the brutal slaying of her daughter and four grandchildren who were recently killed in the central parish of Clarendon.

“In most cases where domestic violence would have escalated to the loss of life, the perpetrator would have demonstrated the potential and the propensity to use violence before,” he noted.

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On June 21, the bodies of Kemesha Wright, 31, her children – Kimanda Smith, 15, Sharalee Smith, 12, Rafaella Smith, 5, and Kishawn Henry Jr, 23 months, were discovered at home with their throats slashed.

Accused of their murders is a 23-year-old relative of the victims, Rushane Barnett.

Holness, who described the act, which has shocked the nation, as an assault on the sensibilities of Jamaicans, offered comfort to McKnight during his visit and has also pledged his personal support and that of the Government.

Noting that the accused is alleged to have displayed violent behaviors in the past, the prime minister is encouraging families, who are dealing with violence from relatives to allow the courts and the law to take due course.

Anyone in your family that is displaying this propensity to use aggression and violence, don’t take it as normal behavior…you should report them,” he implored.

He said the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is prepared to deal with domestic violence and intimate partner violence, noting that the threat of violence is something that the police take very seriously.

Holness said Jamaicans should also seek counseling and engage in dispute resolution mechanisms to deal with conflicts in their families before they escalate to atrocious outcomes.

He noted that a public education campaign is needed about “how we can change our society, from one that relies on violence as a means of resolving conflict,” and cited the church, parents, and communities as crucial partners in this effort.

The prime minister said that the government is working to improve domestic violence legislation and measures to ban corporal punishment.

“Let us use this incident as a line in the sand about how we are going to change to prevent this from happening in our society,” he said.


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