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Violence and our kids

Once again Barbadians have been shaken by the realisation that domestic violence has entered yet another workplace. Actually only a few weeks ago, I wrote an article that contained many suggestions about how organisations can attempt to pre-empt such behaviour.

Therefore, I did not plan to revisit the topic but out of habit, I always read newspapers from the various local media houses to see how others view things in general. So having done this, I was truly incensed at how some (male) writers view domestic abuse, specifically violence against women.

What has struck me as odd although it should not, most individuals do not use any kind of analysis before airing their opinions about one event or the other. For instance, why is it that whenever a female is at the receiving end of domestic abuse/violence every one (male and female) comes to the conclusion that it has something to do with a monetary transaction. In other words, the woman has in some way cunningly relieved that male of his riches financially or otherwise and hence it is her fault.

To me, this behaviour suggests that most males are walking around with their brains located elsewhere (not in the skull) and hence women can easily take advantage of them.

Secondly, it also suggests that females’ sole interest is to get what they can from males as soon as possible without thinking about the consequences. Finally, the common sentiment seems to be that men cannot communicate and hence must act like their prehistoric ancestors whose only reaction to the opposite sex was with violence and unintelligible grunts.

What is most ludicrous is the implication that women should know all of this and therefore should be prepared to readily assuage male egos and accept this behaviour. I would like to add that there are few relationships where the man has provided all of the financial support while the female sits idly by with nothing else to do but “rob” him. So it is surprising that most people seem to jump to this conclusion.

Nonetheless, what I have found most disturbing is the impact of domestic violence on the victim’s children. Therefore, the article this week is about the effect domestic violence has on the children of the relationship.

As usual, I consulted with academic literature on this matter and found that research by Dalile (n.d.) confirms my suspicions that children who are exposed to domestic violence are often not considered in the whole scheme of things. The research further suggests that children’s exposure to domestic abuse/violence can be considered a form of child abuse. As a result, many children who witness domestic abuse/violence often exhibit symptoms such as depression, delinquent behaviour in school, resentment, low self-esteem, teenage pregnancies and at times suicide attempts.

Other research in this area (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRBC, 2012) suggests that domestic abuse/violence in Barbados has emerged as a case of grave concern. This is because unlike other countries, the incidence of homicides (per square footage) rose to an average of 21 percent between the years 2000 -2007.

This situation prompted the Save Foundation to state in the same article that “the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act of Barbados needs to be updated”. Furthermore, research by CADRES suggests that this act did not define domestic violence as a crime and “is only a chargeable offence if the perpetrator violates a protection order” (CADRES, 2009, 29 as cited in IRBC, 2012)

Given this situation, it is incumbent on citizens to lobby for legislation that specifically focuses on domestic violence/ abuse and that clearly delineates the crime and the consequences for perpetrators and that provides adequate guidance for law men. Instead of what currently occurs, where there is a loud outcry initially and then we quickly forget until the next woman is killed. In the meantime those sad children are left without a mother and in some cases both parents.

It appears as if members of our society have become so self absorbed that we do not think of the impact of this type of violence on the children in the relationship. In fact some citizens are so busy blaming the victim, they do not realise the traumatic affect this gossip has on the deceased’s offspring and close family members. Unfortunately, there are still some individuals among us who believe that spouses/wives are the property of the male/husband. As such, she must be punished should she appear to disobey his wishes. This behaviour originated from early Roman Laws that permitted a spouse (husband) to brutally chastise or even murder his partner if he thinks such treatment is justified (Dalile, n.d.).

To make matters worse, the church that should be demonstrating God’s love and Christian teachings/principles has supported this view and often some church folks are overheard stating that since woman was taken from Adam’s rib he is justified in his behaviour. This perhaps explains why when families become victims of domestic abuse/violence, their fellow church members shun them and even become the conduits of gossip and other negative behaviour.

Furthermore, there are some individuals who are of the view that domestic abuse/violence only occurs among the lower classes and that since the victim and her children are considered “nobodies” not a care is given to the impact on children who are also victims. In addition, because our society is so deeply entrenched in this classist view, many females are reluctant to pursue matters in the courts of law since they fare ridicule (real or imagined) although she and her children are under threat.

On the other hand, they are some who argue that women are also perpetrators of domestic violence and that men are victims. This may be true, but how many men have been killed as a result of a domestic dispute? To explain this, research suggests that there is indeed female violence in domestic disputes but this often comes about as a result of frustration, stress, exasperation or solely as a form of self defence. Whereas, males often have the intention of seeking dominance and control to assuage their bruised egos (Jacobson et al & James as cited in Dalile, nd).

So how are the children affected? Research has shown that the child is often a witness to the deteriorating relationship long before it becomes known to the public. Therefore, during the early abusive periods they are the silent witnesses to the abuse as it evolves into the violent act. It is also believed that many children are exploited by parents who ask them to spy on one partner or the other.

However, in most cases it is believed that the child may try to intervene to stop or prevent the violence. Moreover, children are often present to witness the intervention by police and overhear the negative comments by others and see the treatment of their mother by society (Dalile, nd).

Finally, it is about time that the “powers that be” act to enforce more stringent legislation like other developed countries. Moreover, one must be mindful that children who witness domestic violence/abuse are influenced by this behaviour which has a negative impact on their psychological and emotional well-being. The time has come for legislators to act and put severe punishment in place that would prevent men from killing the mothers of our children. We must stop the abuse or face deteriorating behaviour among our youth. Until next time…

* Daren Greaves is a Psychology and Management Consultant

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