Vigilance woman endured years of abuse before murder

-13th woman to die by partner’s hands for the year

During the last seven years of her life Dionne Stephens battled constant physical, verbal and psychological abuse.

Desiree Stephens points to the area where her daughter, Dionne, had been bathing when she was attacked by her former partner.

Leon Robinson, her alleged tormentor and the man who brutally stabbed her on Monday night, was reported to be wounded yesterday but he remained on the run up to press time.

Some time around 10pm on Monday, Desiree Stephens was awakened by her daughter’s screams. When she rushed outside, she saw Dionne scrambling up the short flight of stairs in a vain attempt to get in the house. “He stand deh just firing chop at she…then he slit she throat and slash she chest,” the woman told Stabroek News yesterday.

Her daughter, she recalled, was not clothed and in the end was left on her back in a  bloody pool. The woman said she attempted to stop Robinson but was pushed away and sustained cuts on two fingers of one hand. As she staggered back in horror, Desiree further said, her 14-year-old grandson, Dionne’s oldest child, rushed to his mother’s aid as well.

Desiree disclosed that a relative who witnessed the attack used a broken bottle to stab Robinson in an attempt to halt the attack. Robinson, she said, was wounded on an arm and seemed to snap out of his stupor. He then dashed to the unfenced backyard where he ran south along the embankment towards the backlands of Vigilance.

Hollita Stephens said her sister was in the backyard bathing when she was  attacked by the man. When Robinson started stabbing and slashing her, she said, Dionne was heard shouting: ‘Muff! Muff! You doing this to me?’ “She try to run up the stairs,” Hollita said, “but he haul she down back and damage she more.”

Her sister, the woman explained, recently left her Stratsphey home where she had been living with Robinson and her four children. Dionne’s children are from an earlier relationship and the youngest is nine-years-old. This was the second time in the last month that Dionne moved from the man’s home, she said.

Over the last seven years, Hollita noted, her sister was repeatedly abused by the man. It became a normal thing for relatives to hear of how the man had smashed Dionne’s cellular phone and beaten her because he suspected that she was being unfaithful.

Last month, according to Hollita, the couple argued about a telephone call she received. Robinson, she alleged, started to beat Dionne, forcing the woman to jump through a window to escape. Many of these beatings, Hollita said, were administered in the presence of Dionne’s children and they too have been traumatized. Last month’s beatings, like many others, had been reported to the Vigilance Police Station but relatives said that Dionne never pressed charges against the man.

It was after this incident that Dionne first moved from the Stratsphey home to her mother’s house in Vigilance.

Threatened in police presence

However, Dionne soon went back to her abusive partner and another explosive scene. This time her four children remained with her mother in Vigilance. “I think is love she start to love Muff [Robinson] mek she couldn’t ah leave him,” a cousin stated.

Days after Dionne returned to the man, they had another argument about another telephone call. Hollita explained that her younger sister worked as a security guard for a private company and was answering a call from her supervisor. “When anybody call she,” Hollita said, “this man always deh up under she…he don’t give she no space and is that wa happen de day…she supervisor call she and he telling she how is she man calling she and it start right deh…he knock she up and he threaten to kill she and she left and go back to we mother house,” the woman added.

On Sunday, she further related, Dionne went to the Stratsphey house with police to collect her belongings, which Robinson had refused to give her. Police, Hollita said, did not even wait for Dionne to finish gathering her things before they left and stood there while the man threatened to kill her. “He [Robinson] tell de police that they going to see what he going to do with she and dem gon can’t do he anything,” Hollita also alleged. She does not believe that police took her sister’s matter seriously. Regardless of how many times a woman goes to a police station to report a beating, she argued, she should be taken seriously by police. “Domestic violence is a serious matter…my sister was afraid to tell even us that he de beating she at first…we used to got to see the marks on her skin and ask her is wa happen and even then she na used to want to tell we,” Hollita added.
Several efforts made to contact ‘C’ Division Commander Gavin Primo for a comment yesterday were unsuccessful and Crime Chief Seelall Persaud was also unavailable for comment.

There were also reports yesterday morning that the body of a man, suspected to be Robinson, was discovered in a cane field in the backlands but police came up with nothing after an extensive search. Robinson was yet to be arrested up to late last night and the dead woman’s relatives were not confident that police were doing all they could to find him.

13th victim

Dionne is the 13th woman to be murdered by her partner so far this year. Other women who suffered similar fates this year were: Sunita Muniram, Nalini Bhoge, Usawatie Persaud, Jairool Rohoman, Jacqueline George, Liloutie Seeram, Donnette Ward, Bridgette Gangadin, Bibi Raffina Saymar, Claudine Bentham and Yashpattie Samaroo.

Although she was employed, Hollita said, Dionne’s money went to the upkeep of her four children. Robinson, according to the dead woman’s sister, refused to contribute financially to the children’s well-being and often told Dionne in the presence of relatives that it was her duty to take care of the family.

Dionne, her sister said, had finally made a serious decision to leave the man once and for all. She was motivated to do so after relatives spoke with her about the well-being of her children. “We tell she that her children were going to be badly affected by watching this man beat and cuss she and that is nah only she he de abusing but dem too…is a stressful thing for children to see dem things,” Hollita said.

Dionne, she added, was worried that she had no place to live with her four children. However, shortly before her death, her former mother-in-law had agreed to let her stay at her Georgetown house. “She tell we good, good she de going and live there and next thing we know she reach back with that man,” Hollita said.

Currently, Dionne’s children are staying with their grandmother in Vigilance. Her son was still in a state of shock when this newspaper visited yesterday. The child sat in a corner, surrounded by relatives, with a steady stream of tears flowing down his cheeks and was not very responsive.
Relatives said they are still discussing  how they will care for the children and indicated that they have not yet explored avenues like approaching the Ministry of Human Services for aid.

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