(Trinidad Express) In the aftermath of the posting of a video on Facebook showing her beating her 12-year-old daughter, Point Fortin mother Helen Bartlett says she is “prepared to go to jail” to set her child on the right path.
The mother of four yesterday said her daughter was her “problem child” who might be “acting out” because of neglect on her father’s part.
Bartlett made these statements during a radio interview with journalists Dale Enoch and Tony Lee on i95.5 FM yesterday morning. They shared data which revealed about 72 per cent of the respondents support her action, while 28 per cent did not agree with the mode of discipline.
Bartlett’s elder daughter and the 12-year-old “problem child” have since posted a counter video in support of their mother. They both said she was a good mother who just wanted what was best for her children.
Bartlett’s action has sparked debate over whether she was engaging in discipline or child abuse.
Asked if she had any regrets, Bartlett said: “No. I don’t have any regrets on the discipline, but on the views of the wider nation.”
On the question of support, Bartlett said: “I am getting support. And I have support from my family and from her. The child is supporting me, too.”
Asked what could have triggered such a severe beating, she said: “She has been my problem child. You know they say in every family, there is a problem child. I have been talking to her. I have tried numerous methods. I have even tried to get counselling.”
Amid the chorus of condemnation, Bartlett said she was yet to hear from the child’s father—a policeman.
She said: “I am yet to hear where is the father? I am yet to get a phone call from him. The video has gone viral. She is crying out for her father. And I am yet to see him. The video went out on Sunday. And today is Wednesday. I am doing this on my own.”
Asked if there was any communication between the child and her father, Bartlett said: “He is blatantly telling her he does not want to have anything to do with her. She just has this attachment to her dad. I believe she started acting out after the separation. She was very close to him. After the separation, that is when the problem started.”
Bartlett said “the danger… boys like sharks on foot… was even greater” since the girl started secondary school.
With a sense of pride, she said: “She is pretty, well educated. She is intelligent, but she has a sense of low self-esteem. She wants to be with the ‘in’ crowd.”
Bartlett said times have changed from when there was a stronger sense of community and when “Uncle Tom by the shop was my uncle”.
Asked if she regretted her action which was intended to “shame” her daughter, Bartlett said: “I believe she has to have shame that way. I don’t want her to be 14 or 15 and she comes home pregnant and I wake up and don’t find her in her bed. And I find her in Toco dead.”
Bartlett added: “I stand firmly by my decision. I will go to jail for it. I know people are saying the authorities should charge me for abuse. She is not supposed to be putting her underwear on Facebook.”
Giving details on what triggered the beating, she said: “She received a text message. I got a text message with she and a young man who was convincing her to have sex with him. The boy is around her age. I told her once school open you will get a “cut skin” (vernacular for licks). I can’t deal with the lies.”
Bartlett said she enquired about her daughter’s profiles and while viewing them, she saw “seductive poses”.
She said: “You in a vest and your underwear! What statement is that? And for a 12-year-old child?”
While she could monitor her at home, she said, “I can’t go in her class. I don’t know what is going on when I send her to school.”
Asked about her daughter, she said: “She is coping unexpectedly well. She said, ‘I did not mean to put you through this stress.’ She has sense. She apologised. And she is coping well. She is spiritually grounded. I don’t know where that (indecent exposure) came from.”
Although she has not returned to school yet, Bartlett said she has alerted her to what will unfold at school. “I have mentally stabilised her for that because I expect what will happen.”
In the counter video posted on Facebook, her elder daughter said Bartlett’s actions “were a last resort” to prevent her daughter from the path of teenaged pregnancy. The beaten child has apologised to her mother and family.
The elder daughter said: “That 12-year-old has been putting my mother through a lot. My mom is not a bad mother. Every day since primary school, people are saying mom should ground her. And mom tried all of that.
“People are saying you should take away her phone. As for the people who asked why she was on Facebook, she was not living with us. She was living with her grandmother. Facebook was a way to communicate with her.”
She said: “My mom is very sorry for what happened with the video going viral. And she knew this would have stopped it. The road my sister was heading down was teenaged pregnancy. She saw this as a way she could stop it. My sister has learnt her lesson.”
Defending her mother’s actions, she said: “She loves us dearly. Any parent that did not love their child would have let her do that. The guys are putting a lot of stress on the family. I am pretty sure she will not be on Facebook till 65.”
She added: “There is no male figure. She (her mother) is doing it on her own. She will go to the end of the earth for us. She is in her bedroom crying and praying. She was trying to teach her a lesson.”
Appealing for children to be more responsible on social media, she said: “This is a wake-up call to all children on Facebook. Have respect and dignity.”
Then the video shifted to the 12-year-old saying to her mother, “I am very sorry for bringing shame on you and the family. I know you love me dearly. And I love you dearly, too.”
She also had advice for her peers.
“You watch this video and try to make it better. You are a special piece of God’s puzzle. And don’t let what happen to me happen to you also.”
She cleared the air on views she might plunge into depression and commit suicide saying, “I love myself too much.”