December 16th, 2016
OK, so this is how it seems to go, nowadays:
Man meets Woman.
Man and Woman begin a relationship. It may be love, maybe not.
The relationship becomes a little more serious. The Man and Woman make some kind of commitment – marriage or “common law.”
A child may or may not be born.
Dynamics of the relationship shift. Things are less secure – perhaps financially, or emotionally. The Man hits the Woman for the first time. He doesn’t like the way she talks to other men/the way she dresses/her girlfriends/her going out without him, especially at night. What is she up to? The controlling begins (not only physical).
Woman becomes wary and increasingly afraid, but tries to tough it out. She has perhaps invested too much in the relationship already to up and leave. She may depend on Man financially. She may be truly in love with Man, confused, crushed by his anger. She may feel too proud, even embarrassed to admit to herself, to her family, to society that she has made an awful mistake. She becomes overwhelmed with guilt – it must be her fault that this is happening. She wants to stay, appease the Man, make things good again like before. The Man says he’s sorry after beating her; Woman believes him, because she wants to. She makes an effort. And she hides the pain. She builds little defense mechanisms into her daily life.
The abuse – psychological and emotional, as well as physical – keeps getting worse. If such behavior is allowed to continue, it always does get worse. The Man cannot stop. The Woman cannot stop him (she does not “allow” him to continue; she does not even have a choice at that point. She just cannot stop him). At this point she may confide in a friend or family member. Strangely, this person may not be as empathetic as Woman might expect. He/she (most likely she) may be reluctant to help or advise her, or may not know how to get help, or just doesn’t want to get involved. Woman may not necessarily ask friends or family straight out for help, even though she knows she needs it. She doesn’t want people to gossip about her, either. She does not trust people outside the relationship, so she may not truly confide in anyone. She builds a wall around herself. She is lonely.
Woman does not get professional help; it’s likely she does not know where to find it. She might eventually report Man to the police. How do the police respond – in fact, how can they respond under the law? With a “warning” to Man, perhaps. How does that help? Or do they suggest it’s a “man and woman ting” and tell Man and Woman to go home and work things out? (See the case of the 20 year-old bartender Alisa Garey, who was stabbed to death by her former boyfriend in broad daylight, 100 meters from the Ocho Rios police station. According to newspaper reports, Alisa had just reported the boyfriend, who was actually out on bail, to the police, and they had been allowed to leave the police station at the same time. How could this have been handled differently to save her life?)
Woman leaves Man. Or tries to leave Man. Or tells him she will leave him. Or stays.
Man has been threatening to kill Woman. He means it. One day, he kills her.
Family and friends wring their hands. Neighbors now say the couple argued frequently. They start telling the story of Woman’s relationship (their version). There is grief, there is guilt. There is victim-blaming, too – this is how the killing of Woman by Man is explained. She must have done something wrong. She should have done this or that. Why didn’t she get help? She should never have started the relationship with Man. Man was under pressure (say the Men). He couldn’t take it any more. Men are under a lot of pressure (say certain Men who should know better). They lash out at…Women. Poor Men who kill Women. They’re stressed out.
There has been great outrage on social media – and in society in general – regarding the recent wave of murders of women (aged 18 to 66 years old) killed by their spouses or ex-lovers in the last two weeks or so. We have had panel discussions and media interviews ad nauseam. Jamaicans now need to move beyond these sessions that are likely preaching to the converted. With the support of Government in updating and implementing legislation that is sensitive to current conditions (and this is urgent), we need to broaden the conversation and find down-to-earth solutions. The non-governmental organization Eve for Life, which supports and empowers young mothers living with HIV/AIDS (many of them abused by partners or rape victims) has partnered with UNAIDS and the I Am Worthy Foundation for a discussion on the #NuhGuhDeh theme (meaning – leave our girls alone) and will be in Fletcher’s Land Community Centre with stakeholders tomorrow afternoon to discuss how to protect our girls. We need to hear different voices and work out solutions at the grassroots level. Those women who suffer in silence in uptown gated communities must also feel empowered to speak out. Men must not feel marginalized in this discussion; but do many Jamaican men even get what #HeForShe is all about? The campaign seems to have fallen largely on deaf ears in Jamaica, despite its energetic launch at Jamaica House with a speech by the Prime Minister.
Violence against women in girls is never excusable. There can’t be any special circumstances that make it “understandable.” Jamaican men (and women), whatever their status and whether they are an academic or an “expert” beloved by the media, should never seek to justify or explain it away. Nor is it a case of “men are being killed, too.” Yes, of course they are; and we do live in an incredibly violent society. (This is similar to the “All Lives Matter” response to “Black Lives Matter.” Of course all lives matter, but that is not the point).
Men are being killed in gang warfare and disputes with neighbors and getting drunk at parties and so on.
They are not being killed by their spouses.
Let’s move beyond the 16 Days of Activism and take meaningful action, together and in partnership. Men and Women.