Why so cruel to a child?
As we all prepared to welcome the new year over the weekend, this newspaper grabbed our attention with the digital headline ’14-y-0 beaten by groups of women in Clarendon’. The picture used with the headline sent shock waves, as it was clear that it was a gang of big, overpowering women with their legs and arms flailing.
So I wanted to find out more and searched for the video on social media. In hindsight, I should not have done so. What I viewed churned my stomach. I was in disbelief as I watched several adult “big women” militantly walk toward a skinny, young girl dressed in short tights and a grey T-shirt, drag her off the wall as they pelted her with their fists, thumping her in her face and head, kicking her in her belly, tearing off her blouse, exposing her breasts to the public and throwing her into the middle of the road as they continued the ordeal. She screamed and begged them.
One buxom lady in a bright pink dress with a kitchen utensil resembling a metal pancake flipper, proceeded to use it and beat the young girl in her head with downward strokes.
“Buss her blood^%$# head,” “Chop up her blood…” and “Her head chop nuh kill him” were a few shouts I heard before I had to turn down the volume as the young girl lay limp face down in her blood.
Watching the video was seriously disturbing. But if that were not bad enough, it was listening to the crowd’s comments as they watched the women physically slaughter this little girl that brought bile to my throat.
As she tried to lift up her head from the asphalt, the women continued to beat her.
It was not until she seemingly lay lifeless that the women stopped and a new group of women gathered around her to see how they could help her up. They obviously did not know how to move her.
After approximately two minutes, the video ended. I had to sit quietly for a while.
Why would they do something so cruel to a child?
What if the child dies?
Why didn’t the cameraman help?
Why does Jamaica feel like medieval England?
What’s next? Are we going to mount people on stakes and burn them alive?
Jamaica is slowly becoming the devil’s playground with a current, never-ending daily cycle of violence. Now, it is premeditated violence against our children disguised as ‘vigilante discipline’.
I don’t know the circumstances that led to these women’s desire to find this teenage girl and savagely beat her to a pulp in broad daylight.
Now, she is not only suffering with her wounds but may be scarred emotionally and mentally for the rest of her life. She will, most likely, suffer from post-trauma as a result of remembering how these ladies ganged up against her and beat her.
Since then, the women in the video have been taken into custody, and several other news stories have emerged as possible motives for their actions, which I will not go into. Once, there were crimes that were primarily attributed to men, but now we live in an era in which women are equally culpable.
In reading the comments section about the incident, people were enraged. Most of them remarked, “A shoulda my pickney…” indicating the many things they would be prepared to do to avenge the situation. Fraught with emotions, this is easy to vocalise, but it serves not end in resolution. The anger at all levels of our citizenry is palpable, we must pursue any possibilities to end the violence.
Homicide is the leading cause of death among adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, the mortality rate caused by homicide in this region is four times higher than the global average. (‘Violence against children in Latin America and the Caribbean’, 2015-2021, UNICEF)
Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of children, aged one to 14, in Latin America and the Caribbean experience violent discipline at home. These levels are exceeded by 80 per cent in Haiti, Jamaica, and Suriname. (‘Violence against children in Latin America and the Caribbean’, 2015-2021, UNICEF)
There are approximately 800,000 children who live in Jamaica. These are individuals under 18 who make up roughly 30 per cent of our population.
In Jamaica, eight in 10 of them between the ages of two to 14 years old experience some form of violent discipline. Of note, severe corporal punishment is five times higher among children from the poorest households. And, one out of every four Jamaican students, aged 13-17, have considered suicide. Even more horrifying, one in four adolescent girls, aged 15-19, have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, and 70 per cent of our girls under 18, who have been victims of crime, report they had been raped.
Currently, only eight per cent of our children’s mental health needs are being met because we do not have the necessary human resources and mental health child guidance facilities to cater to their counselling needs.
However, it’s been evident that we have a severe anger management control problem within our adult population, too, and there are no avenues for them to get help, either.
If children and adults are always exposed to violent trauma it can adversely harm their developing brains and bodies. If not addressed, it will affect their health. Post-traumatic toxic stress manifestations can likely result in children becoming violent adults. Therefore, we must break this cycle of violence in Jamaica. Therefore, we must align the resources with a collaborative approach with measurable timelines and deliverables to address the problem at the source with the overall goal of reducing violence in our homes and communities. Let’s begin with meaningful interventions within home and community environments.
Additionally, we must invest in training the requisite number of child psychologists and counsellors to be employed across our schools and districts to continuously monitor and evaluate our children. This approach would help to prevent the escalation of violent domestic conflicts within communities. Therefore, the Government should seriously consider programmes geared towards making counselling and mental health more accessible and perhaps highly subsidised or free.
It’s time for us to double-click and move away from surface-level discussions to truly understand what is happening with our obsession with violence as a problem-solving tool. We can’t continue this way with adults and children subjected to violent behaviour daily.