Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Keeping track of domestic violence offenders

(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 04 May 2011)

There is a new idea being proposed that could have a significant impact in the struggle against domestic violence. According to an April 17 article entitled, “NY Legislators Propose Domestic Violence Registry” on, “Three New York legislators want the state to register domestic violence offenders just as sex crime offenders are publicly listed.”

One of the legislators, State Senator Eric Adams explained: “We would duplicate the same process and the same type of software, so we already have the wheel invented – we’re just adding a new spoke on the wheel.”

I do not believe Guyana has a way to track sex offenders yet, much less domestic violence offenders, but perhaps it is time to find a way to do both. For example, when I moved to the San Antonio, Texas area five years ago, I was able to type in my zip code on a registry Website for the area I live and find out if any sex offenders lived nearby.

Since I had a young daughter, this was vital information for me. Anyone who has been convicted of a sex crime must register with the local authorities. If the sex offender moves to another location, registration is required again in the new location. They must provide their address to the authorities and this information is made public for the protection of the community. 

This is a great way to keep track of those who prey on others and the same concept is being introduced to track domestic violence offenders, which means if a person were convicted of domestic violence, that person would be required to register with the authorities.

The information would then be made public and potential partners could check the registry to see if the person they are dating has a record of domestic violence, which could save many women from abuse and sometimes even save them from death.

In the US, each state has its own sex offender registry that is made available online. In Guyana, it would make more sense to have one registry that tracks both sex offenders and domestic violence offenders, which would gather the information from around the country, including the location of the offender, and make that information available on the Internet.

With the names (and aliases) of offenders being made public, an undertaking such as this could literally save the lives of so many women.

I do not know what kind of return the government has seen on the $15 million it invested into “Domestic Violence 101,” a domestic violence training programme structured primarily for faith-based leaders. Likewise, I am not sure how much the Men’s Affairs Bureau is suiting their intended goal.

However, I do know that any money invested into a program to track sex offenders and domestic violence offenders would see an immediate return. The sex offender registry is a proven method of deterrence and community education. The concept of tracking offenders of domestic violence in the same way is brilliant.

This notion is new in the U.S. and that means Guyana has the opportunity to be on the forefront of this revolutionary concept. Let’s face it; the domestic violence situation in the nation is chilling. The number of women who are terrorised, brutalised and murdered by their partners is simply intolerable, which means it may take some innovative thinking to make some measurable headway on this problem.

I have met with the Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, and I know she has the capacity to introduce a project like this, tweak it so that it is compatible with Guyana’s needs and capabilities, and see that it is the first real program of its type on a national level (if there is another country with this registry, I could not find it).

A national registry to track domestic violence offenders would put a spotlight on this horrid crime, which is usually committed behind closed doors. It would make what has long been considered a private matter a very public issue. In other words, those who beat their wives and girlfriends could no longer hide from what they have done.

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