A Sister sent an email to me and other Sisters this week with a link to an article that was printed in the August 5th Kaieteur News, titled, “Following spate of domestic violence… Don’t leave our men out of the counseling set-up.” While this Sister completely agreed with the notion in the article of involving the men in the process of eliminating domestic violence, she was outraged at what a “community leader” had to say about the role women play in being beaten and murdered.
First of all, it is important to point out that the person making these statements is not identified in the article. This fact alone lends to serious credibility issues – both from the person Kaieteur News refers to as a “community leader” and from the newspaper itself. There was no good reason to grant anonymity for such an article and if this leader could not bear the responsibility for the public statements she made, then she should not make them public.
According to the article, this anonymous community leader said “From speaking to both sexes, she believes that there are cases in which women are living beyond their means and nagging their spouses to provide things that they cannot afford, and even taking the step to be unfaithful.”
She was quoted as saying, “I am not condoning the killing, especially of innocent children, but some women need to have a change of attitude. Some women say that you have to have a man to pay the light bills and another to pay the phone bill. Some women would say ‘I want a big-screen TV by Christmas’, but the man doesn’t want it. Some men can’t make ends meet but they love their wives… some women would have a barrel with six different blinds, but they want one (more) from African Moods.”
I have spoken with many, many domestic violence victims and I haven’t come across even one situation where a woman wanting to live above her means has been a reason for her to be beaten or murdered. The fact is that domestic violence is often a long-term issue used to control the victim. Furthermore, even the cases we hear about in the news do not allude to such a problem.
This is called victim blaming and it is rampant in Guyana. These past weeks have seen multiple murders and attempted murders of women and children and one of the first things people say is, “Why didn’t she leave him?” Anyone who would make such a statement has no idea whatsoever of the dangerous nuances of domestic violence.
In fact, most victims are threatened with their lives should they ever try to leave. Indeed, one of the most recent victims was trying to leave and THAT is why the man went berserk on her. Statistically, the most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when she attempts to leave her abuser. These victims do not care about big-screen televisions.
Moreover, victims in Guyana do not leave because there is no place for them to go if they want to escape their abuser. There is simply no efficient official support structure in place for these women.
Back to the article in question. It is a dangerous and irresponsible act for a community leader (especially a female leader) to blame the victims of domestic violence. This only perpetuates the violence against women as men are given justification for their violence.
Let me make this clear, violence is NEVER an option in communicating with others. This community leader would have done better to promote non-violent communication rather than to justify the violence. As my Sister said in the email to me, “I seriously doubt an activist said this….” Another Sister doubted a woman could have said it. However, it is a sad reality that victim blaming is still pervasive and as long as it continues, so will the violence.
I agree with this this anonymous community leader that men should be involved in the process of eliminating violence against women. After all, they are the perpetrators and if this violence is ever going to end, they must be a part of the solution. Likewise, I agree that men are also victims of domestic violence. I have come across these victims as well.
However, how many men in Guyana have been murdered at the hands of women as a result of abuse in the past year? How many in the past ten years? Now compare that with how many women have been murdered in just the last two weeks at the hands of men as a result of abuse. Is it any wonder at all that women are constantly being murdered when there are “community leaders” who makes such dangerous and irresponsible statements?
Last year, I heard female community leader blame the victims of trafficking and I was shocked. I truly feel these women listen to the ramblings of the male leaders around them (many of whom are abusers themselves) and regurgitate those ridiculous justifications to others.
It has become quite clear that men are not going to do what it takes to stop the violence as even the ones who are not violent do not step up to stop the ones who are. They like the dominance they have over women and intend to retain this dominance.
How very sad when women follow the men’s lead instead of taking a stand for their fellow sisters. It pains me when a woman sees her sister down and out because of abuse and, instead of giving her a helping hand, kicks dirt on her and tells her it was her own fault.
I want to address one more thing the article said: “She also believes that more families should return to the church, since, in her view, ‘the family that prays together never gets chopped up together.” I would like to ask this community leader where the notions of male dominance originated. It is in all patriarchal religions today. I would also like to remind her of the pastor who mercilessly beat his wife in front of their children and attempted to throw her off the veranda.