Partner violence deeply rooted in vaginal obsession
Very few Jamaicans would contest the view that the social fabric of the Jamaican society is being torn immeasurably.
One of the most worrying aspects of modern Jamaican life is the extent to which social relationships have become so dysfunctional as to pose a great threat to peace and tranquillity in the society for a long time to come.
A clear manifestation of this social dysfunction is the extent to which violence in inter-party relationships is becoming a problem. This is, of course, not anything new, but today they seem to have taken on a new urgency, as disputes between parties often lead to the violent death of the people involved.
Allied to this is the very worrying development of the hitman culture in which people take the law into their own hands and decide the guilt or innocence of those with whom they have a dispute. It should be cause for alarm how easy it is for people to make these decisions and the apparent ease with how they are executed by the hirelings. There is no pause, no second look at such decisions by both the ’employer’ and ’employee’ of these hits.
What seems clear is that life has become very cheap. There is no moral compunction to deter someone bent on getting revenge. With the society awash with guns of all descriptions, the work of the hitman has become easier. All that is needed is the will to carry out the act once monetary compensation has been determined. After that, the life of the hapless victim is not worth as much as that of a dog on which the perpetrator of this kind of violence would not waste a bullet.
As Howard Mitchell more than inferred in his acceptance speech during his inauguration in the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Hall of Fame, the society is going towards a social abyss from which there may be no return.
Let me break off to congratulate Howard on this signal achievement, which is well deserved. He is one of those corporate leaders who have shown, over the years, a great concern for Jamaica. I remember well his passion and eminent sense of patriotism when we were trying to form the National Democratic Movement. He is not a man to speak out of both sides of his mouth and if he sounds an alarm for the trend towards social nihilism in the society, he ought to be listened to.
A prominent manifestation of the social dysfunction that abound is the sinister and macabre nature of partner violence in recent years. When it comes to our romantic relationships, we do not seem to manage these too well. The “Beachy Stout” murder trial has brought into sharp and shocking relief elements of the anatomy of the dysfunctions that persist in many of these relationships involving young adults. If a woman who is in a relationship with a man goes missing for two days there is immediate worry that she will not turn up alive. I am appalled at the number of cases of women who have been beaten or killed by their significant other. Some simply just go missing, not to return. Statistics bear out that women are largely the aggrieved parties here. We do not hear of cases in which men go missing or are killed as a result of their love relationships going sour. This is not to say that women do not exact physical violence on the men in their lives, but the preponderant evidence, scientific or anecdotal, point to men as the perpetrators in these atrocities.
One of the things I have noticed over the years as a family therapist is that some men are yet to understand that a woman has a brain and that she has sovereignty over her own body. There is a tendency to objectify women on the basis of the purported pleasure they can provide, not on her competence and accomplishments as a person. There may be something deeply buried in the male’s primitive psyche that makes him look at a female in these terms.
The vagina becomes the all-consuming passion. Thus, when a woman says no to a sexual advance she is not to be taken seriously. There is a tendency to persist, especially if one is under the influence of a mind-altering substance such as alcohol. Many men are yet to understand that when she says no to a sexual advance she often means that and that you do not have access to her body. To take what you desire by force, or by some screwed interpretation of a biblical text, simply is not on. And, whether you are married to the woman or not is immaterial. Any sex taken by force, without her consent, whether married or unmarried, fits the legal definition of rape.
The reason many women do not press charges is that they feel ashamed â€” a shame which they should not bear, but which she knows she will be subjected to by a society yet to come to terms with this revolting behaviour. Some may remain silent and bear the indignity because of their dependence on a man or the fear that, if they leave, they may not be able to get into another relationship. The fact you are married to a person does not make that person your property.
I have also found in my practice that many men do not know how to treat with the assertive or accomplished woman. Many men prefer the acquiescent, submissive, and dependent woman. The moment she tries to move out of an ambit of dependency, the self-absorbed man begins to feel that she has interest in someone else. Her loyalty is questioned and she must be put back in her place. The moment she resists and shows any independence, which she must, violence often becomes the tool to enforce submission. If this is kept up for too long love grows cold, and you cannot force a man or a woman to love you. Neither can love be bought. Love must be contingent upon a free exercise of choice fuelled by how the person feels about you and, importantly, about himself or herself. Beating a woman who is fearful into submission may get her compliance, but it will never take away from her the deep sense of her autonomy which will quietly resist you with all the fibre she possesses.
A lot of the violence against women in romantic relationships is due to pernicious jealousy, real or imagined. This is often rooted in a desire to protect one’s territory, which when explored is the sexual territory which the man believes belongs to him exclusively. The woman may also feel this about her partner. Pernicious jealousy cuts both ways, but the real danger of this is that it can lead to paranoia of the worst kind, which can result in harm to others. It is a serious problem as old as man himself, but is not one without remedy by the those who are willing to find it.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the books: Finding Peace in the Midst of Life’s Storms; The Self-esteem Guide to a Better Life and Beyond Petulance: Republican Politics and the Future of America. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.