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Make the World a Better Place: Let's Talk About Domestic Violence in Jamaica

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Recently, a number of ruthless and violent killings targeting women in Jamaica has placed the issue of domestic violence at the forefront of the minds of many people. The Arizona Coalition argued that domestic violence “is not physical violence alone. Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses”. “Abuse is a learned behavior”, is a most complex and misunderstood statement. My own perspective on this matter is guided by the many unique societal factors that drive this issue. Understanding and treating with domestic violence is of utmost relevance at this time in Jamaica.

Many Jamaican boys and girls grew up in homes where their parents did not “spare the rod and spoil the child” and instead sought to “bend the tree when it is young”. Unfortunately, domestic violence is a part our culture, elements of which have developed from our history of conflicts, the methods of resolving and treating with these conflicts and the methods utilized to deter or guide behaviors. My most significant recollections of violence are being beaten by my teacher and the captain of Cadet Brigade in high school. Amazingly, I have never been beaten by my parents and in return I do not beat my kids. I figure that love is the most potent behavioral control technique available on earth.

To combat this problem of domestic violence that plagues our society, we must start by accepting the innate violent traits that exist in our society and its origins. I think our propensity to inflict violence has its linkages in our history of being enslaved and exploited, the pervasiveness of mental health issues all around us that we do not understand and the disciplinary techniques that have been utilized in our homes and schools. The issue of domestic violence is a very sensitive one, as I posit my own perspective I hope not to create or add to the disquiet that exists about this topic.

Historically, our very proud and powerful black ancestors were sold and captured into slavery by our colonial masters. Many of our men lost their manhood, the wealth they earned and built, their status in society and roles as heads of our families. The planters became our owners, providers and masters. Our men were beaten into submission to do work, they were killed by hanging, they were branded with hot iron to show ownership and their daughters and wives were raped and killed without them being able to intervene to protect them. Violence was made central to the experiences of slavery; killing and maiming became direct end results. Our ancestors, without choice, opted to utilize violence themselves against the colonial powers to secure their freedom, respect and even economic independence.

When I worked as a health practitioner a Senior Medical Officer once told me that 90% of us suffer from some type of mental issues. Mental health issues include our emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. Unfortunately, you can see the impact of mental health-related issues in the workplace, in our families and communities. Many mental health ailments become normalized when you see them every day and have a lack of understanding of what they are. Mental health issues can be seen in persons with depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, to name a few. Persons with these mental health problems sometimes inflict verbal and physical abuse on those closest to them. Murder-suicides are now commonplace in our society. These are directly related to major flare up of rage and passion within the homes. Many abusers kill the person they seek to control, after which they take their own lives. Others have homicidal tendencies driven by extreme mental instability.

Many people still believe that their success in life is directly correlated to the physical beating that they received from their parents early in their lives. These traditions and beliefs actually create other direct and indirect behavioral and psychological damage. In applying what is called “corporal punishment” many parents lose control and cause extreme physical abuse to their children. In the Jamaican context there is sufficient evidence of parents using their fists, feet, shoes, board, knives, cutlasses, stones and many other dangerous objects to inflict damage to their children.

In schools children are removed from classes, left to stand on one leg, placed in a corner to stare at the wall and beaten with rulers and belts. Maybe the most damaging effects of this practice of corporal punishment is that children grow up thinking that it is normal to inflict punishment on those who are smaller and weaker.

We should all make the effort to make the world a better place. Blog land, these are some of my suggestions to accomplish this:

1. Respect each other. Irrespective of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, political persuasion, country of origin, etc.;

2. Love is not ownership. Let us accept that we do not have the power of making a human being and consequently we do not have the power of owning each other;

3. Freedom is a right. Making a commitment should not be confused with giving up one’s freedom. Happiness is fueled by the freedom to live the way we love life;

4. Stop exerting power and control over each other. A position of authority should never be used as a reason to abuse those around us, especially the vulnerable;

5. Be a good neighbour by being observant. Intervene and where possible, report any disputes that are persistent around you, especially when it involves children, the elderly and women;

6. Focus on nurturing our children. They learn and adopt what they see and are exposed to. Let our homes be built on love, care and affection not violence and abuse;

7. Finally, let us accept the unfortunate historical legacies that influence our lives. Let us be mindful that mental health issues are rampant in our society and help those that are afflicted. Let us utilize communication engagements to identify and resolve our problems.

Follow me on Twitter @DonaldFarquhar4, Facebook @farquharsondonald, Instagram @farquharsondonald and Blog

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Most men think they have the right to control their partner, and that women aren’t equal to men.

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