I have for many years fought against the scourge and sickness of domestic violence against men in Guyana and Canada. Although I write from an Islamic perspective, I have realised that this issue crosses all divides. Hence to name this gender-based violence is appropriate. There are too many stories of silent abuse, silent treatment, sexual deprivation, hurt, ending of lives and a series of emotional and physical troubles.
Women are the major victims of domestic violence. Too afraid or ashamed to talk about it they live in hellish silence most of their lives. They react and while the tongue is stronger than the sword even the sword becomes worse than the words when ‘lashing out’ is all they know. Lives are lost. Children and parents suffer.
I know of shelters for men. It’s hard to be a man. Men are more sensitive than women. There is some truth to this. However, my appeal is for men to talk. Talk to their buddy. Talk to a friend. Talk to an Imam /Pastor/Pundit. Talk to the helpline or online helper. It’s hard for Caribbean men to open up to their hurts, share their innermost feelings and love unconditionally. To rally around non-toxic friends is crucial. It’s better to separate than live in misery. The pursuit of happiness is the inalienable right of every human.
I have seen the loss of close ones because the husband could not take it any more. I have sat with men serving time because it was too much to bear. I have walked and prayed with brothers who are broken and making bad choices daily. My meagre spiritual path allows me entry to some very private but gruesome life stories. I spoke at an international conference on chaplaincy recently reminding the caregivers of the hopeless that the God of Hope is who we serve.
There must be a way. In Guyana the drinking houses have served as the default men-therapy clinic for a long time. But that itself needs therapy. The ERC and others must call on the government to fund hotlines and social workers to help men to men up! A national hotline with text and online chat should be advertised as this is very important. I have seen active listening telephone therapy saving thousands in North America.
I think a workshop series training religious leaders to deal with this is crucial, as they are among the first go-to persons in cases of social breakdown. But how equipped are they? Prayers and practical steps can do wonders but only if willingness and courage are their hang-out buddies.
“Domestic violence damages the prospects for economic and social development of every country, not just the lives of the victims” (CAFRA).