October 7, 2020 By Rachel O.S. Edmund
October is the month that we as a collective recognize the debilitating effects of domestic violence. As I write this piece I reflect upon the events of this past year, the majority of which I have been affected by in some way. As a victim, survivor and advocate I am painfully aware of all of the intricacies that comprise the issue of domestic violence.
Covid-19 has been particularly lethal for some women and for others it has been a saving grace because it has allowed the country that somehow seems otherwise oblivious to their plight to truly see how limited the options available are to women in this country and even around the globe. Covid-19 has shone a spotlight and put domestic violence centre stage! For me it has brought naysayers and eternal optimists to the realization that leaving a toxic relationship is easier said than done.
You may ask what is domestic violence? In a nutshell it is any type of violence or harm that is perpetrated against any individual usually within the confines of their homes by close familial relatives. Children can be abused, grandparents can be violated, husbands and wives can batter each other according to the definition. Domestic violence can take various forms but many times one type of violence can be accompanied by one or two or all the other forms.
It usually begins in the form of verbal abuse. Many times the individual is not aware that this constitutes to violence and so they allow the behaviour to continue because no “harm” is being done to them physically. Verbal abuse however erodes a person’s self worth and self confidence and it is quite an untrue statement as I learnt in my later years that words don’t hurt. They most certainly can and do hurt! Uttering hurtful, demeaning and derogatory words makes an abuser feel powerful whilst the abused feels powerless. Abuse is ALWAYS about power and control for the abuser.
When the perpetrator has lost his/her zeal or believes that his/her words are no longer inflicting enough pain they usually move on to other means of abuse such as physical abuse to exert their dominance and power over the abused and to assuage their sickeningly, overly-fragile egos. I’ve heard of many a case where the abusive husband/boyfriend/life partner would have stated words to the effect that his wife/girlfriend/life partner could not cook or was a lousy homemaker. When this was no longer able to satisfy his need to feel powerful he would hit her because she didn’t prepare a meal he liked or wanted. I am painfully reminded of my own story here.
As I ponder what I really want to say as we recognize this month as DV Awareness month I am confronted by two thoughts. First, domestic violence always has a genesis and it is not the fault of the abused. In Trinidad, the culture of victim blaming is so pervasive that many a member of society (both men and women) will articulate statements in and out of the public sphere like “She look fuh dat!”, “She shoulda never do dat!“, “Is she fault he do that to her!” “Woman mouth does get dem in trouble!” and so many other insensitive and obtuse sentiments. The second thought that keeps gnawing at me is that of Reshma Kanchan, the latest victim of this crime in our country.
Quite a few of those statements were expressed by many an online commentator at the news of her most gruesome death; death by beheading. Apparently they never read her online account. The two saddest things about this story is that she recognized the toxicity of the relationship and left with her children in tow. That is the saddest part of it all, that her children are now left to navigate this life without the love, guidance and support of their mother. My heart bleeds for them! I feel no feelings toward her abuser who attempted suicide by throat slitting.
I hope that her family gets justice but to be brutally honest, as a woman, survivor and taxpayer I don’t wish that he endures a lifetime of incarceration filled with all the atrocities of legal imprisonment; that is too good for him. As a pastor however, for me those thoughts are far from what God expects of me; they are far from Chist-like, thus, I must pray for his soul and hope that he finds God somewhere in his new journey. I have to forgive him because Reshma can’t. I have to extend the love of Christ when I think of him and his children. I know that many will not agree or understand but this is the cross I must carry.
I know that I said two thoughts but a third has entered my mind. It is a question that I ask myself consistently relative to domestic violence. Where are the men? I often ask this because I know with certainty that all men are not animalistic in nature. All men are not weak mama’s boys who lack self control. I know that there are men who will not tolerate that occurrence in their sister’s or female relative’s lives; they would literally kill for these women or so they have articulated. So where are they? What are they doing? What are they saying relative to this scourge that continues to plague our society? Why are their voices so few and far in between? Which male voices are amplified and why? Which male voice will categorically denounce the killing of our women and the abuse of our children?
People continue to theorize that it is because of the upbringing of children by single mothers that we are seeing the fruit of same in such horrendous crimes. I am yet to see statistics to support this anywhere; I could be wrong. I would offer though my thoughts as to the root causes of the proliferation of such men in our society and across the globe.
1. Spiritual wickedness and a morally bankrupt society. We continue to allow man-made ideals and principles to dictate how we live rather than recognizing and teaching the values that ought to be taught. I mean, we don’t allow prayer or religious instruction in non-denominational schools! With the pandemic occurring, churches were not seen as essential services and were forced closed.
2. Men no longer understand their role and function. They have forgotten that women are to be protected by them. They have no understanding of who they are or should be as MEN! Maybe, better role models are required.
3. Single motherhood? Yes, I recognize single motherhood may be quite the challenge for some even many women. But is it really the issue? I believe the issue really is an issue relative to absentee fathers. There is a lot that a single mother imparts into her charges however it is my belief that despite her best efforts some children can and will go astray from her counsel and teachings. Again, role models? Strong role models! Who is supporting the single mother and what is the quality of said support?
4. We have consistently as a society accepted bad behaviour without applying the appropriate punishment for it rather, we consistently rewarded it. A bribe here and a kickback there is often overlooked so what’s a slap, kick or stab? Why not overlook those?
5. Archaic laws and institutions that treat with victims in a less than humane manner and perpetuate the abuse. I mean, when and if you have to leave your job because you need to feel safe or are afraid for the safety of your coworkers rather than institutions having robust policies to assist victims of abuse what do we really expect? When the law and lawmakers treat victims as outcasts, unimportant or perpetual crime reporters that will return to the abuse anyway how do we demand that men be better? When the legal and judicial system continues to allow the abuse through them who are we really fooling? When we are a reactive society rather than a proactive one how can we ask our men to be anything more?
6. The empty noisemaking barrels that continue to speak loudly on men’s issues. These noisemakers continue to advocate for men crying out that no one hears them when everything in society, whether we want to admit it or not, is founded on patriarchal principles. These empty vessels refuse to denounce this pestilence by not using their platforms to say that it is not ok. Many are reminiscent of the “All lives Matter/ Blue lives Matter‘ bandwagon positing that “it happens to men too” not understanding the pivotal difference between male to female violence and female to male violence. The fundamental difference is that women kill their children more often than they do their partners; men are more likely with more frequency to kill their partners.
I am not saying that men should not advocate for what they believe is right however I am saying that it is time for these voices to step up and do a few things: a) provide better role models for men and boys, b) introduce support and create programs that will deal with teaching boys what it means to be a man and build them holistically and c) stop perpetuating the divide between men and women with bitterness and victim blaming.
I am tired of the incessant noise surrounding domestic violence. I am tired of the murders of women who choose a better life for themselves and their children. I am tired of the silence of men and tired of the continual demand to remain silent on this issue because of the discomfort it causes the numb and the willfully blind and ignorant masses. I REFUSE TO REMAIN SILENT!
To survivors everywhere, there really are no words that I can say except that I understand and that I am glad that you mustered up the courage to escape the grip of your abuser. To the victims, those that remain in toxic situations… I feel your pain, I know what it is like and I am praying that you will save yourself and your children before it it too late!
I’m adding a few resources that are important for you to have as a victim or someone who may want to assist (I borrowed it from The Shelter’s Facebook page (I know they wouldn’t mind me sharing):
Get Help Now!
- 1 (868) 800-SAVE – Domestic Violence Abuse Hotline
- Police – 999
- Rape Crisis Hotline – 1 (868) 627-7273
- Legal Aid – 1 (868) 625-0454
- Family Court – 1 (868) 627-8716/623-2631/624-1307
- The Children’s Authority Hotline Numbers – 996 / 1 (868) 800-2014
- Victim and Witness Support – 1 (868) 624-8853
- The Shelter http://www.trinidadshelter.com/ : 1- 868 – 628-1116 or 728-0861 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Donations to The Shelter are welcome : at any Republic Bank : RBL acct# 18024564700
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