Jamaica | Feb 22, 2023

UWI campus security implores students be their brother’s keeper

Vanassa McKenzie

Vanassa McKenzie / Our Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The recent incident of alleged torture of a 19-year-old student by her 20-year-old boyfriend, Matthew Hyde, in his room at the George Alleyne Hall of the University of the West Indies (UWI) has sparked several concerns in the public domain and among parents about the occurrence of intimate partner violence on campus.

Norman Heywood, director of campus security at the UWI told Our Today that there has not been a significant increase in intimate partner violence on campus over the last three years.

He said that: “Looking back on the data for the past three years, 2020 we the pandemic year, so we didn’t have much people on campus, and then in 2021 we had one case. Students had just started coming back. In 2022, when we resumed classes we had three cases and since January I think this is the one that triggers everybody on February 9th, when a young lady was held captive by her partner for a couple of days.”

Heywood noted the UWI, similar to the general population has to deal with the issue in intimate partner violence.

Students’ access to support systems on campus

The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Security Office (Photo: Antwaine Campbell)

When Our Today asked students on campus whether they knew where to go to make reports of domestic violence, several students stated that they did not know where to make reports.

A student, who gave her name as Malika said that the recent incident of domestic violence was shocking because a close friend of the victim should have recognised that she has been missing for three days.

Ashley Richards, another UWI student told Our Today that she did not know where to go in case she needed to make a report about domestic violence on campus.

However, the director of campus security said that students are sensitized to the various support systems available to them on campus during their first week of school.

“It’s easy for students to make a report on campus, there are so many opportunities because students interact with their resident advisor on hall, they have a hall manager to who they can report to and there is the director of student services. There is also the health and psychiatry department, they are a team of counsellors who are willing to work with students,” he said.

Norman Heywood, director of Campus Security at the UWI, Mona (LinkedIn Photo: Norman Heywood).

He also stated that students can reach out to the campus monitoring station, a 24-hour line that students can call to seek assistance, which was the line that was called to rescue the 19-year-old who was tortured and held hostage by her boyfriend between February 6 and February 9.

“My office we have campus police officers operating from office that patrol the campus and they are available to do on-the-spot reporting. People can simply stop them or come to the office to make reports. They can also go to the Mona police post to make a report, the police have been instrumental in dealing with some of these issues, if students don’t want to use the service on campus they can go to the police, and they introduce them to the victim support group set up to assist,” he said.

He noted that there is no shortage of support for victims of intimate partner violence and the campus has a zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence.

Heywood also urged students to become their brother’s keepers by making it their duty to check on their classmates and hallmates.

“If we attend the same classes together and this morning I don’t see you, I’m supposed to inquire as to where are you, I should call your phone. If I come home late and I don’t see you, I’m supposed to come and knock on your door and ask what’s happening. We need that type of comradery, that type of caring and sharing, we encourage that type of buddy system amongst students” he noted.

He said if more students played the role of their brother keeper, then someone would have alerted the campus security earlier to the issue that occurred on campus in recent weeks.

The Rush Alert

The director of Campus security said the university has partnered with Rush Alert Limited to provide students with access to the Rush Alert Mobile application, an application which enables an individual who is in a distress situation to send out notifications to a set of predefined emergency contacts who can then track their location in real-time.

Rush Alert limited was created by a group of university students to mitigate crime and violence in Jamaica and by extension the world. 

He said that: “Rush Alert keeps students in touch with each other, if students are going down to the mall, they can text their friends and tell them that they are going by the mall and you should be back by a specific time. And when they have arrived, it will send an alert that you have arrived safely and when they reach back on campus it sends an alert that you have arrived safely. If they don’t receive a text then they know that they should call.”

Marvin Richards, chief executive officer (LinkedIn: Marvin Richards).

Marvin Richards, chief executive officer of Rush Alert Limited outlined that Rush Alert was developed in 2018 to enhance the safety of students and staff on and off campus.

“Last year we signed a licensing agreement with the university to offer our secure application to students and staff because we do know that the university wants to enhance the security of students on and off campus,” he said.

He noted that while Rush Alert offers special features to UWI students and campus staff, other persons can utilise the core features to send alerts to their emergency contact.

Red flags for intimate partner abuse

Intimate partner violence is a common issue that affects several Jamaicans who are involved in unhealthy relationships. While there are several avenues for victims (both male and female) to seek assistance for intimate partner abuse, oftentimes victims are afraid to speak out because of stigmatization and fear.

Domestic abuse affects families, and children and also causes a strain on the healthcare system. The act of intimate partner abuse can often be prevented if victims were aware of the warning signs and decided to leave the relationship before it becomes abusive.

Here are some of the most common signs of intimate partner violence:

  • Extreme jealousy
  • Controlling behaviour
  • Verbal abuse
  • Threats of violence
  • Isolation
  • A history violence


What To Read Next