DIRECTV North East Stars treated volunteers from the Rape Crisis Society to a gala evening at the Hilton Hotel last Wednesday in the second edition of its “Treat Her Like a Lady” annual event developed by the club to highlight various issues affecting women in Trinidad & Tobago.
Last year’s event at the Carlton Savannah hotel helped to raise awareness of victims of domestic violence while this year the club used the event to show appreciation for the work carried out by the Rape Crisis Society.
With an audience of over 75 invited women, Stars’ Operations Director Kevin Harrison used the opportunity to slam the broadcasting by Ian Alleyne on his Crimewatch television programme of a video showing the rape of a 13 year old girl.
Harrison said, "Although we are all pleased to see that an arrest has been made in this case thanks to the Crimewatch programme, the long term damage to the victim is yet to be measured. There was no need to show this poor girls face as she was being raped, certainly not at 6pm."
Wednesday’s event was mainly light hearted, with respect for women being the theme.
Guests were escorted by the arms of North East players from the hotel entrance through to the Savannah Terrace, where other footballers from the Sangre Grande club served refreshments and canapes and waited at tables.
In his regular starting position for the event, CEO Brent Sancho manned the grill, serving up his trademark barbeque chicken, much to the delight of the all woman audience.
"It looks like I have a regular spot here," laughed Sancho, a former World Cup footballer.
"This event is very important to the players and staff of North East Stars. Football is so very often viewed as a male orientated sport, yet I would guess we have more female supporters than male.
As sportsmen, we have the responsibility of being role models and we take this very seriously at North East. We want to set positive examples in our community."
Sancho, who has a degree in psychology, said believes that many men do not understand the trauma associated with rape.
"Unlike most crimes, a victim of rape continues to be effected by this brutal crime for the rest of their lives. The fear may subside, but it’s always there.
We must do more to support and protect these victims. I believe Mr. Alleyne made a massive error of judgement by broadcasting the face of that poor girl.
The laws must be tightened up so that victims’ identities can be protected, and those that refuse to adhere to these laws must be punished severely. We trust our media to act responsibly in the interests of natural justice. Clearly that trust has been abused."
Although Sancho acknowledged Alleyne’s apology, he felt that it was not enough.
"Ian Alleyne appeared to show no remorse. In fact he came across as very indignant, and anybody should dare criticise him. I don't believe he understands the possible repercussions of his actions for that young girl.
Whether or not the victim and her mother gave permission to Alleyne to show the video, is immaterial. Unless they received independent guidance and advice from an organisation such as the Rape Crisis Society, Alleyne should not have even considered revealing the victim’s identity."
President of the Rape Crisis Society, which offers support and counselling to both male and female victims of rape and sexual abuse, Mrs. Rosalyn Ali, said she was overwhelmed by the event.
"The footballers have been amazing," she said. "They are perfect gentlemen and worked hard throughout the evening to make us all feel very special. This is a fantastic example to the men of Trinidad & Tobago."
"As usual, our sponsors (Carib Brewery, Toyota Trinidad, Japs Fried Chicken, Cher-Mere, DIRECTV, S.M. Jaleel, Sunshine Snacks, Fine Choice and Bliss) have been fantastic,” said Harrison.
“It is notable that so many big companies in Trinidad & Tobago are only interested in sponsoring fetes and concerts, when events like this go unsupported. Corporate Trinidad really has to embrace the true concept of corporate social responsibility.
"Special thanks have to go to Mr. Ali Khan and the staff of the Hilton Hotel. Their generosity and support has been amazing. The staff has been incredibly supportive and professional, even though they have had to stand back and watch with horror as our players waited on the tables.
However, I think they were impressed with the lads’ performance and joined in the applause for the players enthusiastically." Sancho said that despite these difficult economic times, businesses were beginning to see the value in football sponsorship.
"I think the work we're doing at North East is gradually changing the attitudes of corporate T&T. We can become an important part of a company's CSR programme, and this can be done relatively cheaply and effectively. We have over 30 willing workers and the ability and organisation to produce effective and successful projects."
Sancho also pointed out that sports sponsorship is very cost effective.
"I believe companies can still benefit from tax relief of 150% on sports sponsorship and I find it difficult to understand why big business isn't getting more behind football in T&T."
Harrison added that this time of the year is the busiest off the field for the Sangre Grande based club with three massive annual events.
“We launch our Champion of Champions invitational football tournament this week, with the final taking place on New Year’s Day.
In mid December we host our annual Christmas Tree event at Ojoe Road Recreation Ground which will see 1500 children receive toys from Father Christmas as well as food, snacks and drinks, face painting, bouncy castles and entertainment.
Then on the evening of January 1st, we will be launching Carnival season in Sangre Grande with our annual Soccer Fete, which will feature the biggest and best cast of soca artists ever assembled in the North East."