The 2015 Annual Report
Stories of survival and recovery
These are the stories of some of the thousands of persons who have accessed the services of Help & Shelter over the years. The names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.
(By Denise Dias )
As Chairperson and Co-Founder of Help & Shelter from 1994 to 2016, I first met 21 year old Natasha Houston early August 2013 at our shelter for abused women and children. Natasha was discharged from the Georgetown Public Hospital only days after having her right arm and left hand fingers chopped off and witnessing the brutal killing of her son and daughter by her abusive husband Richard Lord (now deceased. Richard Lord committed suicide several days later).
On behalf of Help & Shelter and Natasha I wish to acknowledge the following companies, my family and friends who generously gave donations, support, and assistance :-
Shirley-Ann willingly provided transportation, paid utilities and endless miscellaneous expenses incurred on a daily basis. Sybil's bakery provided meals. Through Shirley-Ann's kind and generous spirit, Natasha's new life experience began.
Client for many years encountered serious challenges and abuse by the hands of her partner. Client's children were also experiencing the abuse from their father, boys and girls. Client one day walked in on her partner, and saw him playing with her small daughter ‘s private parts, and when ask what he was doing, she was told by him to mind her business and that she was upset that hers was not fat like the child. The boys after not being able to cope with the abuse, they were witnessing and experiencing, leave at an early age, to work in the interior, in order to escape the abuse. Client for many years accepted the abuse, while at the same time, kept seeking counselling and reporting the abuse to the police station. The last report client would have made at the station, was not recorded, although she would have shown to the officer who was on duty, the protection order against her partner. Client was told by him, that it was not valid, and was actually dismissed; client said she felt as though the officer was disgusted with her and just ignored her totally. Client return to H&S frustrated and depressed, counsellor accompanied client back to the station, and talked with the station Sergeant expressing her concerned for the client and children's well being. Station Sergeant makes inquiries as to why her report was not recorded, and why she was treated in that manner. He then gives the assurance that he will look into the matter and requested a medical report from her, counsellor then accompanied her to clinic then back to the station with medical. Counsellor kept checking with the station, until arrest was made and matter was taken to court. The protection order was reinforced and client and children eventually had the opportunity to live a life free from being abused. Six months had past ,when client return to the Crisis Centre to share her joy of being much happier, working to provide and take care of her and children free from abuse ,finally!
Client after experiencing years of abuse visited H&S seeking advice and counselling. After talking with Coordinator, was referred to counsellor for counselling and intervention. At the time client visited the Crisis Centre she was very tearful and hurt about the abuse she was experiencing for all the years. Client was vulnerable and believed she was at fault, therefore at that time accepted the abuse and exploitation from her partner. Client and partner had a small business that she was responsible for; usually she worked from 8 am until 2 am, sometimes even later hours, causing her to sleep at the business, only to continue the next day. The turning point, of her seeking help at the Crisis Centre, came after infidelity started to play a major role in her abuse, and she was also physically abused by the woman her partner was dating at that time. The DVA was discussed with her and she was also referred to the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic of legal advice. Counsellor worked with client, during a four months Period, on the following topic areas:
A male client who came in to the Crisis Centre voluntary said that he was very depressed and admitted to being abusive to his common law wife and mother of his daughter. She left him and he wants her to return. He agreed to submit to counselling during which time he made some progress as she had left the child with him as she had to work and she would visit and spend time with them which made him happy.
Client’s partner neglected her for five years, took the money from out of their joint savings account, migrated to Suriname and started a new family. During those years client’s partner never supported her, and whenever she tried to contact him he would ignores her telephone calls. In the last quarter of this year, client received a call from her former partner saying he was sick, in hospital, about to do surgery and wanted to ask her forgiveness and if it was okay for him to return if he survived the surgery. Client agreed to this request and partner returned after one month. However the very night of his return they ended up at the police station. Client said ever since the return of her partner, life has been very stressful as he wants her out of the home that she developed after he left. Counsellor discussed the DVA with client and was referred to the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic and the Magistrate Court. She was successful in getting a lawyer to represent her in her DVA application and having the DVA protection order enforced against her partner who was also placed on a 2 year bond to keep the peace.
17yr teenager was referred to H&S for assistance on behalf of another NGO. The 17 yr. old was given a warrant to serve on her partner for child maintenance. H&S counsellor accompanied client to the La Grange Police Station and spoke to the ASP who requested a police constable to accompany client to the residence of client’s partner for the warrant to be served. On arrival, the officer was told the defendant was not at home, but was expected to return shortly. Information and a summons was given to the defendant’s mother indicating the date the defendant should attend court. The 17 yr. old client was grateful for the help she received from H&S and the La Grange Police Station. Client case information was given to H&S court support counsellor to follow up.
Client for two years now had been experiencing intimate partner violence, beatings resulted in client losing teeth and being scarred from stabbing. Client made several reports to the station during these ordeals, but said she didn’t have the strength and courage to leave him because of threats to her life. After a recent beating she was advised to get a restraining order against her partner, which she did. When partner heard about the DVA order he broke into the house of client’s mother and told her to tell her daughter, (client) to revoke the order. When this was not done he refused to adhere to the Court order assaulting client and bursting her head and breaking the arm of client’s mother. Counsellor recommended that H&S Ixora Shelter would be a safe place for client to stay in light of partner’s repeated assaults. Client however opted not to take up this offer as she heard that her partner had fled to the interior when he found out he has to go to court and the police were looking for him. Client was educated on DV, the cycle of abuse, DVA and told about the case of a client who lost not only an arm and four fingers but witnessed the brutal murder of her young daughter and son by their father and her abusive partner. Client later returned, was counselled on trauma and self and referred to H&S Ixora Shelter. Client then left to stay at her aunt’s house and is still receiving counselling, on self- awareness, self- development, self- esteem building and goals setting via telephone. Client said she was sorry she didn’t seek help much earlier, and is grateful that she finally did due to the knowledge and help she has received.
A client’s ex partner stabbed her several times in her head. He was charged and placed before the Court for attempt murder. He was remanded to prison however subsequently he was released on bail and thereafter he began stalking her workplace and her mother’s home. The client was very fearful for her life and returned to the counsellor seeking advice. She was counselled on DV information and options that are available for her protection. The client decided to apply for a protection Order and access H&S shelter, and therefore she is safe from further harm to her life. In addition, the client is presently receiving court support.’’
A couple who had attended 5 joint counselling sessions expressed gratitude to the counsellor and said that their relationship has mended and the children are all happy. This relationship was nearly severed due to infidelity on the male’s part when the woman he was seeing bore a child and said that it was his. The wife was on the move to file for a divorce after her husband refused to come in to H & S when a letter was sent inviting him in at her request. When the husband realized that his wife was serious about divorce he reconsidered and started attending counselling sessions. Counsellor had introduced the husband to H&S Male Session and he has been attending these sessions along with joint counselling sessions. Husband has vowed to continue attending the male sessions as he is enjoying it and has been learning a lot which he said will continue to enhance his life and relationship. The couple had a Thanksgiving service in honour of their commitment to save their marriage which was attended by over 100 persons including children.
A male teacher was referred to H & S services after he was suspended from school due to an alcoholic problem . He attended 3 sessions of counselling on process of behaviour change; how alcohol affects the family, personal health and domestic violence and abuse”. Client said that he has benefited greatly from the counselling sessions and that his partner who had left him is preparing to return to him with their young son as she has seen some change in his behaviour. He also said that he is prepared to work harder and to empower the male youths of his school. Client further stated that whenever it is possible he would continue to access services of H&S.
A student robbed and threatened at gunpoint was very fearful, unable to sleep, eat or go about her daily activities without feeling as though she will be attacked by the same person again. She was counselled on symptoms of trauma and ways of coping after experiencing such a traumatic event. Client was much relieved after attending the one counselling session, as she was leaving the very next day to return home. Counselor and client continued to keep in contact via telephone and student indicated recently that she is emotionally in a better place and will be returning to complete her studies at college even though previously she felt unable to do so.
20 year old Vanessa met Leon (not their real names) when she was 15 and went to live with him despite her mother's objections. Two years later she became pregnant with their child (a daughter). The relationship was very abusive but Vanessa kept the abuse a secret from her family. After five years of sustained verbal, physical and sexual abuse, Vanessa told Leon that she no longer wanted to be with him. He refused to accept her decision and continued to torment her as she tried to move on with her life. He forced himself into Vanessa’s family home, assaulted her father, robbed the family and abducted Vanessa at gunpoint. He eventually let her go and was arrested and charged by the police. But Vanessa did not pursue the matter and the case was dropped.
Months later, Leon abducted Vanessa again and raped her. With the assistance of her mother, Vanessa reported the matter to the police and her mother brought her to Help & Shelter for counselling and support. She was referred to the Guyana Legal Aid Clinic to apply for a protection order. A few days later, Leon again broke into her family home and threatened her and her family with a gun. The next day, Vanessa and her daughter went to the shelter, having decided that it would be best for them to stay at there until Leon was caught and brought before the courts.
With the help of Help & Shelter’s court support counsellor and the counsellor advocate, and the legal aid clinic, Vanessa was granted a protection order. Help & Shelter made sure that Leon was served with the order application and the final order by working with the police when they could not locate him. Repeated calls were also made to the DPP’s Chambers, the police station and the police commander to ensure that Leon was arrested and charged with rape. Leon was finally arrested, charged and put before the court, where the magistrate ordered that he be remanded pending trial. Vanessa felt safe enough to leave the shelter and returned to her family. She is currently awaiting the next court date. Help & Shelter will continue its support of Vanessa.
Brenda visited Help & Shelter September 2010 because she was very unhappy in her marriage. She was living with her husband Patrick and his other ‘wife’ Geena. Brenda had experienced constant confrontations with Geena from the beginning of her relationship with Patrick. The fights between the two women worsened when Brenda became pregnant. Brenda repeatedly left the home, only to return again at the insistence of Patrick. She was also constantly accused of being unfaithful by Patrick, who stalked, and physically, emotionally and financially abused her. He even tried to drown her once.
After visiting Help & Shelter, Brenda decided to go to the shelter with her daughter. They stayed there for over a year, during which time, she was almost continually in fear as Patrick was determined to get her back home. He reported her to the Probation & Welfare Department, offered a reward to anyone knowing her whereabouts, visited the crisis service in an attempt to find out where she was, paid people to keep a watch on the shelter and had a lawyer write demanding to know the whereabouts of Brenda and her daughter. As a result, Brenda had to stay indoors and restrict her movements.
Patrick applied for full custody of the daughter. Help & Shelter arranged for Brenda to receive free legal advice and representation and custody was granted to her.
Brenda has now left the shelter and is working on starting her life over with her daughter.
Savitri had been in an abusive (physical, emotional, sexual & financial) relationship for 9 years when she came to Help & Shelter in November 2011.
Savitri was encouraged to obtain a Domestic Violence Act protection order, which was granted in January 2012, and with the support of Help & Shelter found the courage to give evidence in the criminal assault matter, whereas in the past she had reported the abuse to the police but never dared to press charges.
Savitri is now coping well and moving on with her life. For the first time in years, she is feeling happy, healthy and not stressed out. She has been empowered to realise that she deserves better than an abusive partner and has shown great strength and determination to live a life free from violence.
Lisa, aged 14, lived with her mother, stepfather and two siblings. In 2008, she called the hotline, having
Lisa had gone to live with a cousin as she and her mother were not getting along. When things did not
The counsellor spoke with Lisa’s cousin, who said that Lisa was rude and out of control and that she
Lisa was moved from the cousin’s home to the home of a classmate, but things did not work out there
Lisa returned to live with her mother and counselling continued. One day Lisa called the hotline, saying
Lisa was sent to Berbice to live with her grandmother and other relatives. Her behaviour has improved
In May 2011, 25 year old Jonathan was referred to Help & Shelter by his doctor for counselling as he was
The counsellor empowered Jonathan to understand that he was not alone in his grief and to move
Three theories were looked at: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy and Logo. The
premise was that grieving is a process and that for Jonathan to be happy again, he had to rationalize the
Jonathan responded well to the therapy and was soon able to go back to work.
14 year old Keisha began to skip school in 2009. When Keisha’s mother found out, she beat her and
Unsatisfied and frustrated, Keisha’s mother contacted Help & Shelter for help. Keisha told the counsellor
The counsellor explained to Keisha’s mother the reason for Keisha skipping school.
As a result of the counsellor’s work with Keisha and her mother, Keisha returned to school and the
In early 2010, Daisy called Help & Shelter on behalf of her daughter Mandy, who was in an abusive
Mandy moved in with her mother. Her abusive partner had kept their only daughter, but in May 2010,
Daisy and Mandy were advised to take Mandy’s daughter to the hospital to see if she had been sexually
The police are currently investigating the matter.
Abby married Mark in 1995 and had three sons.
When Abby and Mark were first married they lived with her husband's relatives, who were verbally and emotionally abusive towards her.
In 2001, Abby and Mark moved into their own place with the children. Mark started to drink alcohol day and night and was abusive to Abby, at first verbally and then physically.
One night he came home drunk and demanded money to buy more alcohol and when Abby said she had none he lifted Abby and the twins in the air and dropped them on the floor. Afterwards, he cried and apologised. The next day he came home from work drunk and again demanded more money for drink. When Abby told him she had none, he pulled her by her hair and dragged her down 11 steps and kicked her in her chest. Her sister, who was visiting Abby at the time, tried to save her, but Mark was too strong. Abby had a huge bruise on her chest.
Abby told her family about the incident and they followed her to the police station, where she reported the matter. The police said they would transfer the matter to another station but they did not do so and the matter was never addressed.
Abby and the boys stayed with her parents but when Mark came and begged for them to go back home, she went.
Mark’s father started to visit every Saturday to speak with him to ensure that all was well and to calm him down, but in 2004 his father died. After Mark’s father’s death the abuse intensified. One day a male neighbour asked him if that’s the way he should treat his wife and he came home and accused Abby of having a relationship with the man. When spread rumours that he had come home and found the man in his home and had run him out, the man beat him and he left the home.
When Abby called Mark’s family, they said he had gone to Trinidad and was never coming back. But Mark returned a few weeks later and continued to be abusive towards Abby.
Two Help & Shelter community workers (male and female) visited Abby’s home to share information about domestic violence. Abby told that them that Mark was abusive. He asked her what nonsense she was talking and she said isn’t that what you did to me yesterday, beat me up? The workers left their numbers and made an appointment to return. When they did, they offered to counsel both Abby and Mark separately. When Mark said that he didn’t want to be counselled by the male counsellor as he was young and unmarried and didn’t know anything about family, he was referred to a pastor in the community. The pastor visited the home to counsel both parties, but Mark was always reluctant.
Abby started to call Help & Shelter day and night for counselling. She was glad that she had somebody to listen to her without being judgmental.
When the matter went to court, Mark was order to undergo 8 weeks counselling He moved out of the house again and went back to his family. He stopped going to counselling and was charged for not complying with the court’s order.
On Valentine’s Day 2010, Mark went to Abby’s house. He grabbed her by her hair and threw her down. Abby called the pastor, who called the police and made a report. Mark was arrested and sent to prison for 6 months.
Abby obtained protection and maintenance orders for herself and her children. In January 2011, when Mark had eased up on the drinking and stopped being abusive, Mark and Abby began living together again. Abby is now a community worker and no longer lives in fear.
Tiffany had been a regular hotline client since 2002 before she and her 14 year old daughter came to Help & Shelter in 2004 for face-to-face counselling. They were being physically and psychologically abused by Phillip, Tiffany’s husband. Tiffany’s 17 year old son had already left home due to Phillip’s abuse.
When Tiffany and her daughter came to Help & Shelter, they both had black and blue marks about their bodies. Tiffany said that after she had got a job, her husband Phillip would normally check her bags and physically check her to ensure she was not having sex with anybody else while she was out. He would sexually assault her by inserting his finger into her vagina without her consent.
The abuse was so bad that Tiffany slept in a separate room. She even overheard Phillip telling someone on the phone that he was planning to poison her. She made reports of all the incidents to the police and eventually in May 2007, Phillip was charged and placed before the magistrate’s court for assault causing bodily harm and sexual assault.
With the help of Help & Shelter Tiffany obtained protection and occupation orders, the latter of which was granted subject to the home being split into two households. But Tiffany and her husband still had to share one bathroom area, and one day he slapped and sexually abused her. Tiffany applied for division of property and Phillip was charged for breaching the protection order and made to remove from the property. In 2008, Phillip filed for a divorce but it was granted in Tiffany’s favour. Whenever he saw her, Phillip would verbally abuse Tiffany and also started to spread rumours about her.
In 2009, Tiffany learnt that Phillip had died of a heart attack.
Sandra, a 37 year old woman, came to Help & Shelter for counselling in October 2010. She had three children, two of them for Rick, her abusive partner. Sandra had been abused for 14 years; she was very depressed and had visible marks of abuse about her body. She had made numerous reports to the police several times but no action had been taken. During the time of the abuse, Rick had brought other women to the house and had had sex with them while Sandra was there.
Sandra went to the shelter, where she received further counselling and was referred to the legal aid clinic for legal assistance. At first she was scared but eventually went to the clinic and obtained protection and occupancy orders plus maintenance for Rick’s children. Sandra is now living happily with her children.
In 2009, a married couple, Sam and Glory, came to Help & Shelter to seek counselling. They were counselled separately and Glory told her counsellor that she was being abused. She was advised to make a report to the police, which she did, and temporarily moved out of the house, leaving her four children behind with Sam.
Glory later returned home but the abuse continue and she and Sam resumed their counselling sessions. In a separate counselling session, Sam indicated that his religion was the reason why he was so abusive to Glory. The counsellor considered Sam unstable and Glory was advised not to sleep in the same bed with him that night. Glory left the house for the night, leaving the children with Sam.
The next day, the children begged Glory to return home, so she did, but the abuse continued. When Sam stopped attending counselling sessions the counsellor followed up with him. Sam told the counsellor that he had visited another agency and had spoken with an officer there, who had given him a letter for Glory to attend counselling sessions there instead.
Sam was refused further counselling by Help & Shelter because of his attitude, and when Glory was contacted, she said that Sam had fabricated the letter. Glory continued counselling and decided that she wanted to end the marriage for the safety of herself and her children.
Glory was referred to the legal aid clinic for a divorce. Help & Shelter assisted and guided her throughout the process and she eventually requested a confidentiality waiver because the judge required proof that she was indeed being counselled for the abuse.
Today, Glory is divorced, living with her children and has returned to school. The division of the property is still to be finalised. Glory has learnt to become independent and to find balance in her life.
Mark, a teenager, visited Help & Shelter in 2010 to report that his father John was very abusive to his mother, his siblings and him. He said that his mother was unable to visit Help & Shelter because she was not allowed to leave the house.
One day, Mark’s mother, Anita, managed to escape from the house and get to Help & Shelter. She was counselled and having been advised that her husband needed professional help to stop his abusive behaviour, decided that she wanted her husband to also attend counselling sessions, so he was invited.
John came to Help & Shelter and told his side of the story. He had drinking and literacy problems, so was counselled and given homework to help improve his reading and writing skills. After three months, Anita said that John’s behaviour had changed and that their relationship was much better.
Cindy, 41, and Joel, 39, were counselled by Help & Shelter from October 2005 to November 2006. Cindy was suffering from domestic violence because of the Joel’s alcohol abuse. In addition to receiving counselling, Joel was referred to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
After some months of counselling and attending AA, Joel’s behaviour started to change for the better and the couple now have a healthy alcohol- and violence-free relationship.
Thirty five year old Amanda attempted suicide because of the domestic violence to which she was subjected by her husband Ryan and was referred to Help & Shelter by a social worker. She received counselling from April to September 2010.
During the period of counselling, Amanda continued to be severely abused by her husband and again tried to kill herself. Ryan was invited by the counsellor to attend the counselling sessions and agreed. As it was apparent that his abusive behaviour was linked to alcohol abuse, he was referred to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
After the counselling ended, Amanda visited Help & Shelter and thanked those who had helped change her husband’s abusive behaviour.
Sandy was a 36 year old with one son. She lived in an abusive common-law relationship with a man who frequently travelled to and from Canada. They lived in his house.
While her partner was on one of his visits to Canada, Sandy decided to end the abusive relationship. But the partner returned to Guyana unexpectedly in the early hours of one morning. Having let him into the house, she went back to the bedroom with her son. Shortly afterwards, he came into the bedroom naked and tried to force her to have sex. Sandy did not resist or scream because she did not want to wake her son who was sleeping next to her. Eventually, the man pulled her out of the bedroom and into the living room and continued raping her.
The next day, Sandy reported the matter to the police, who charged her partner with rape. With Help & Shelter’s help, Sandy obtained a protection order.
As a result of the trauma she had gone through, Sandy was suicidal. She continued counselling and eventually enrolled in and completed an IDCE course. She is now a student at the University of Guyana.
Juliet first called the hotline as she didn’t live in Georgetown and couldn’t afford the fare to travel to the Help & Shelter crisis service there. She made pastries at home, but her abusive husband sold them and pocketed all the proceeds.
Because of her financial circumstances, Juliet asked to be and was counselled by phone. During the counselling sessions, Juliet was encouraged to continue her education. Although initially reluctant, she eventually became sufficiently empowered to enrol in and successfully complete a course through the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education and then to attend the University of Guyana.
When Juliet had not been heard from for a while, the counsellor called her to see how she was doing. Juliet said that she had been drinking to help deal with her stress and the counselling by phone resumed.
Juliet completed her studies, obtained a diploma in social work is a now a professional social worker.