A female posted on Facebook that women should stop provoking men, since such provocation leads to domestic abuse. This victim-blaming is nothing new, but it is indeed astounding that there are still women who propagate such a view, yet claim to be anti-abuse activists, as this poster does.
Experts have reached a consensus on several common characteristics among batterers – they are controlling, manipulative, often see themselves as victims and believe that men have a pre-ordained right to be in charge of all aspects of a relationship. For some abusers, violence is a tool to keep their intimate partner from leaving the relationship, ensure that she ‘knows her place’ and ‘respect’ him, although respect is generally equated with fear. Abuse, then, is the continuous result of power inequality between the partners whereby one partner is afraid of and harmed by the other who feels powerful in the relationship context, with ‘provocation’ being a mere excuse to exhibit this power.
Yet, the same individual who hits his partner or child would be quite angry if a police officer pulled him up for no reason and/or profiled him, but he would never choose to hit the police officer. Similarly, that person would put up with provocation, but never choose to hit a boss, a worker in a government office, someone in authority or someone bigger and stronger than him.
Yes, abuse is a choice and coercive control is the intention, which means there are non-violent alternatives. However, in the Caribbean where women are still subservient to men, males are still socialized to see themselves as the ones with ‘power’ in a relationship and citizens see abuse as not their business, alternate choices are hardly ever considered.
Such alternatives include: do not overreact but stay calm and take a walk if necessary; listen without interrupting and to understand; show respect instead of engaging in back-and-forth insults; be emphatic instead of judgmental and apologize when the situation so demands; give each other space; discuss issues to seek non-violent resolutions and even use humour in this process; recall the positives of the relationship as a way of recognizing what is at stake; seek the help of someone with mediating skills such as an elder or a priest.
It is true that the engaging in alternatives to abuse is easier said than done, but conscious effort is needed to deal with relationship issues without resorting to violence. This is so that not only do the relationships grow, but children in such relationships are taught by example to non-violently handle conflicts instead of growing up to become abusers. And in this respect, relationship communication, especially empathy, is critical, so partners in a relationship must learn the parameters of communication that would not lead to violence.
This approach is generally included in workshops and outreaches by abuse prevention entities such as The Caribbean Voice. But a lot of this information can also be found online. And while it may be true that these measures put the onus on the victims much more than the abuser, the reality is that once the victim is still in the abusive relationship, ‘safety first’ has to always be the urgent goal, thus the need for the victim to take the initiative in creating the parameters and framework to prevent violence.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the otherization of the call to action. On the one hand, many who suggest what should be done, expect some hazy ‘other’ to take action, as they remain dismissive of the call for abuse prevention to be everyone’s business; the need for each one of us to tackle the issue in our homes, communities and workplace as that is really where the walls of silence need to be broken down and misplaced concepts such as family honour and status need to be shunted aside.
On the other hand, the deafening silence fosters abuse, sometimes with fatal consequences, often because victims and others know not what to do and how to do it and have no support network to foster safety. This need to know is critical since abuse prevention starts with you and you and you and all of you together do create a support system.
Again, a lot of related information can be found online. Information and help can also be accessed as follows:
o The US: The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women: 1-888-7HELPLINE http://dahmw.org and the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) http://www.thehotline.org/
o Guyana – http://caribvoice.org/resources.html
o Other Caribbean nations – http://caribvoice.org/global.html
o Globally – http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html
o The Caribbean Voice via email to [email protected],
Meanwhile, The Caribbean Voice urges everyone to act on the premise that abuse prevention is everybody’s business and we urge you to persuade victims to seek and access help, including safety, as well as encourage partners in dysfunctional relationships to seek couples counselling. Please, please do not wait until it is too late given that femicide has been spiralling in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Voice