Getting beyond mere outrage at the heinous abuse of our women and girlsWednesday, April 14, 2021
The vicious killing of women and young girls in our society is once again gaining currency. We have reacted with the inevitable outrage, hand-wringing, and blame assignment in an effort to explain the barbaric nature of what we are experiencing.
There is no dearth of suggestions as to how we can deal with the problem. What is clear is that we have been on this road for a good while, and there is no indication that there is any clear path ahead out of this dilemma.
We are dealing with a societal problem that has only grown worse; it is a problem which only a society collectively can summon up the will to subdue.
The attack upon our children, especially very young girls, is galling. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, on a Nationwide radio programme recently, gave a graphic description of the participation of a mother in the sexual assault on her young daughter by her stepfather. The description might have been intended for a shock effect, and if this was the case it achieved it and more. Those of us who heard it had our sensibilities shattered that a mother could participate in such a heinous act against her own child. It is a level of depravity that one would not even expect to find in a movie script, even with the debauched nature of some of these films today.
We have a real problem in this country. In a society in which so many of our men have been poorly socialised, where sensuality and sexual objectification of our womenfolk are taken for granted, and in which men believe that women are their property, one should not be surprised to see this level of sexual violence against them. And this runs the whole gamut of the society.
At the time of writing, social and other media are reporting the severe beating of a woman by a male Member of Parliament. It says a lot when the main legislative chamber of our country can attract individuals with such orientations. It is understood that the individual is a member of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which has urged the member to report himself to the police. We will watch to see how committed the party, which now forms the Government, is to its revulsion against these incidents.
Undoubtedly, no section of society is free from the predatory thinking of men who think they can have a good time at a woman's expense. Whether they are going to use their wealth, power, or other influence to get their way, some think they can do so without impunity. This is true of the boardroom as it is of the grass out in the field, where a woman is attacked and raped or in the confines of a small room in a tenement yard, where a brute beast posing as a father or stepfather can assault his little child because he believes he has a divine right to do so. It is only when heinous offences like the killing of Khanice Jackson happens that we wring our hands and realise that we have a monumental problem on our hands.
The objectification of our women for sexual pleasure is as much an uptown issue as it is a downtown phenomenon. There is no cultural delineation to this problem, which has been augmented by the easy availability of pornographic material on the Internet. Never before in the history of humankind is so much sexualised material available to human beings to be absorbed and used in the privacy of their electronic devices. This is an issue to which the DPP alluded. In a poorly socialised but highly sexualised society like Jamaica, easy access to pornographic literature is exactly what the “doctor ordered” for those who have no control over their sexual impulses and who believe that easy access to a woman's private parts is a given. It is the price they must pay when they are in a relationship with men. And when they object, then force must be applied to enforce compliance with their depravity.
What must be done? We cannot just leave the problem at the level of the Internet. This is a mere tool that gives depraved individuals the fillip to exercise what is already deeply embedded in their psyche. DPP Llewellyn has suggested the establishment of a national task force to deal with the problem. She will pardon me if I show some scepticism with regard to this suggestion. To be fair to her, the parameters of that task force were not spelt out so one does not know the contours of her thinking and how the task force will operate. But we have been this route repeatedly where we set up these bodies to address national tragedies. Often, they give the impression that we are addressing the problem, only for them to become mere talking shops that eventually smother any real response to the presenting problem. Another task force related to crime would certainly titillate a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) which is notorious for years in setting up groups with corrosive-sounding acronyms as ACID to fight crime. We are a society fascinated with acronyms, but are we any better off for them? So, pardon me, Madam DPP, if you see a big question mark hovering over my head at your suggestion.
I am no criminologist or crime forensic expert, but it seems to me that what we are dealing with a societal problem which has to be addressed by comprehensive counselling at the community level. Men who are disposed to hurt our women live next door to us, again, whether uptown or downtown. Communities have to be galvanised to be a part of the solution. The Ministry of Justice, working with the churches, must provide safe homes for women to retreat to when situations get so bad that they become refugees from violence. Many women suffer in silence because they are not aware of any place where they can take refuge if they have to leave an abusive relationship. They would be encouraged to seek help if they were convinced that help was truly available. Telling a woman who is being beaten that she needs to call an abuse hotline may be too late for her. If there is a refuge centre to which she could repair she may be more disposed to summon up the courage to leave. More of these facilities need to be built throughout the society, perhaps one in each parish.
All of this must be supported by a strong supportive counselling programme which could be housed in these refuge centres. More social workers must be trained and deployed to work in the communities to sensitise individuals to the available help and provide other psychosocial support. This will have to be aided by strong budgetary support. The nature of the problem indicates urgency.
Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest, social commentator, and author of the book WEEP: Why President Donald J. Trump Does Not Deserve A Second Term . Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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