Dealing with domestic violence


Dealing with domestic violence


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

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Some time ago, I attended the funeral of a very prominent Jamaican. What remains in my memory of the event was that every speaker spoke long and eloquently about the deceased man's love for his wife. On my way home, I stopped at the home of a friend who lived near the church. We were soon joined by a third person who also attended the funeral. We spoke about the deceased for awhile and I mentioned the comments about his love for his wife. The other person said, “Yes, but him used to gi har some bitch beaten, yuh si…and you know seh I was in a position to know.”

One day, I was on my way to the country.

As I approached Spanish Town Hospital traffic came to a halt. I came out to investigate and saw a crowd by the gas station. I saw a woman on the ground and a man raining blows on her with both fists and feet. Police arrived, restrained the man, and started dragging him away. Slowly, the bloody, battered body on the ground stirred.

Then, seeing the police taking the man away, she sprang into action, pushed one policeman out of the way, held on to her batterer, and delivered a feeble punch to the other cop while shouting, “Unnu lef wi; lef him, if him neva love mi him wouldn't dweet!”

The crowd broke into laughter. But the policeman she pushed was angry. His uniform was now bloody from contact with the woman. In an expletive-laden statement to his colleagues, he said, “Mi tyad fi bc tell unu seh police doa bizniz inna lovers' quarrel. Doa rc involve mi inna dem ting ya again.”

I was a young social worker attached to the Family Court when an acquaintance visited me one afternoon. She said she needed a personal favour. Sitting before me, she handed me a picture of an attractive young lady.

She then handed me another picture of someone looking as if she had posed for a mugshot.

She asked if I saw any resemblance. I didn't. She said they were pictures of the same person. “What happened?” I asked. “Marriage,” she said, with a wry smile. “The first picture was taken the same year of the marriage, four years earlier. The second was taken two weeks ago.”

The woman had experienced abuse during courtship, but entered into the marriage when, in search of a solution for his violent behaviour, she asked if marriage would change him and he said yes.

Eight months earlier, she hurried home with what she thought was good news.

She was promoted and would now manage one of the rural branches.

They no longer had to struggle with bill payments. But he seemed crushed by the news.

Tensions grew until he visited her workplace one day, delivered a sound thrashing in front of staff and customers, locked up the building, and drove her home.

Stress levels grew daily as his meagre salary could not take care of the bills.

When she regained consciousness in the Spanish Town Hospital nurses rallied around her. She gathered that her husband had beaten her on her head with the jack from his car and was in police custody.

Hearing this, she immediately demanded her clothes and, against the entreaties of hospital staff, discharged herself, headed to the police station, and got her husband released.

Her friends felt that her only hope was to have her removed to a place where she could not be located by her husband. She had relatives in Miami.

He could find her there. So I was tasked to find somewhere else, outside of Jamaica, where she could hide and heal.

It was urgent because the doctor had warned that if her husband did not receive help, he would, in all likelihood, kill her.

I contacted a retired couple I knew in New York, explained that this lady was recovering from a brain injury and needed complete rest.

They immediately offered their basement, rent-free, for as long as healing would take.

Two weeks after she arrived there I got a letter, thanking me and telling me of the many letters she had written seeking employment.

I decided to call her to remind her that she was in no condition to work for another three months. So I dialled the number.

I am offering a large slice of cheesecake to the first person who can tell me who answered the phone.

Violence against women is nothing new in this country. But it has dominated the news over the past week as at least three women have been killed by their partners.

Most times it happens when one partner feels the need to dominate a partner in any shape or form. Research has shown that people with abusive tendencies generally turn violent when they are unable to exercise control.

When we have doubts about our abilities and skills it leaves us with a poor self-image and lack of self-confidence. We therefore enter relationships 'armed' with insecurity. This forces us to explore ways of exercising power and control while pretending to be acting like a 'real' man.

My experience is that every victim I have met experienced violence in the home against the mother and older female siblings by the man in the house, leaving girls to associate this kind of behaviour with love and caring from future partners.

The boys see this as their role in life. They all reach adulthood believing that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people.

Our young men have learned, from childhood, that women do not need to be valued or respected

Beyond the swagger, these men usually succumb to stress easily because of job losses and housing foreclosures. And they hit out.

There are usually warning signs shortly after entering a relationship. But the potential victims reject advice accusing those giving the warnings as not wanting anything good for them. But you can't really blame them.

Here are two of the most glaring signals: “...[B]us and taxi? No mi love.

Anywhere a going him tek mi and sit and wait for me and take mi back home.”

Normally, this is the sign of a loving, caring partner. Occasionally it is.

Or, “He says when a relationship just starts, parents and friends should stay away to allow the relationship to grow.” Interestingly, when the abuse starts, the party that creates the greatest hindrances to correcting the problem is the victim. And this is one aspect of dealing with domestic abuse that has not been properly studied.

We still do not fully understand the nature of domestic violence.

These areas offer the greatest potential return from a research investment as it will help to increase understanding and the appropriate response to violence and rape:

a) What interventions are designed to do, whom they are reaching, and how to reach the many victims that do not seek help.

b) Factors that put people at risk of violence, that precipitate violence, including characteristics of the offenders.

c) The scope of domestic violence in Jamaica and its consequences to individuals, families and society, including costs.

d) How to structure the study of violence against women to yield more useful knowledge.

There are frequent calls for individuals with problems to seek counselling.

It should be obvious by now that this is not working.

Men, there is nothing you can do about the fact that you do not look like Denzel Washington and you do not wear size 14 shoes. But, you are not alone.

Deal with it! How about developing some inner qualities, like integrity and respect.

If your woman is going back to school, take your ass off the bar stool and go too. She will look up to you even though you are 5 feet tall.

Talk to neighbours, co-workers and friends of victims, and when what is learned has been analysed, it will become abundantly clear that the real, fundamental nature of violence against women remains unexplored and often misunderstood.

Glenn Tucker, MBA, is an educator and a sociologist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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