The normalisation of domestic violence

Opinion

Regrettably, domestic violence seems to be accepted by a wide cross-section of Guyanese men and women as a normal aspect of life.

I am no social worker with years of experience on this matter, nor have I conducted extensive research on the issue, but in my brief 25 years, I believe I have made enough observations to confidently come to this conclusion.

Today, young girls are socialised, whether directly or indirectly, by their parents and society at large into believing that domestic abuse – be it verbal, physical, financial, or psychological – is normal.

I bet some persons will say, “I have never taught my children that domestic violence is normal.” But let me ask this, how many men have beaten and verbally abused their wives in the presence of their sons and daughters? And even if the fault was not theirs directly, how many times have children witnessed it somewhere else, maybe in the home of a relative, or even in the streets?

It is a fact that children who bear witness to abuse are statistically more likely to become abusers or victims of abuse.

When a grown woman, educated and well employed actually expects to receive a few ‘love taps’ from her boyfriend or husband on occasion, a check of her history is likely to reveal that her perception of such acts as normal is linked to the way she has been socialised. Similarly, when a man can sincerely tell his wife of girlfriend that he beats or ‘cusses’ her out because he loves her and wants her to do right, it would not be surprising to find that he was fed this garbage as he was growing up.

One Friday evening, as I was making my way past the lime which takes place at popular eating establishment, I noticed a couple standing on the side of the road and from what I could read, the conversation was obviously a tense one. So, being the inquisitive man that I am, I decided to pay more attention to the couple to ascertain what was going on.

What I saw next shocked me. The guy pointed his finger right between his girl’s eyes and uttered the words, “don’t play stupid yuh know girl, yuh know wuh does happen.” As he made his threat, she lowered her head and remained silent, almost as if she was submitting. I remembered thinking that this is the way humans usually scold their pet dogs and cats. It was disappointing, yet eye opening. What made this scene worse, is that neither of them could have been older than 18.

How many relatives of abused women have blatantly encouraged them to stay in such relationships because receiving a few cuffs, kicks and slaps is normal? So now, despite how much they suffer, some women feel compelled to cling to their abusive partners, until death parts them. Unfortunately, this death sometimes comes prematurely, and at the hands of the abuser.

But the situation is far more morbid than what has been described.

Many of these women, even while being abused, would resort to verbally or physically defending their abuser if an ‘outsider’ attempted to intervene in their affair.

A friend of mine, relating one of his experiences, told me that he attempted to save a young woman who was being beaten by her partner on the road. However, once he confronted the abusive male, instead of thanking him, the woman, who seconds ago was crying and screaming, took off her three-inch heels and proceeded to smack him with it.
“I never getting into a situation like duh again bai, let them try,” were his words to me.

By now I reckon the picture that I am attempting to paint is materialising in your minds.  So I will close with another one of my experiences. While walking on the road I came across a scene where a young woman, probably in her early 20s, was being abused by her partner. Unable to just ignore what was happening right before my eyes I said to him “you know you can’t be treating that girl like that.” The guy boldly told me that what was happening was between him and his girl and that I should mind my own business.

After I continued to scold him for publicly abusing his girl, he then advanced on me, threateningly. Now, I have never been much of a fighter, and I was sure that if a scuffle ensued I was going to be on the receiving end of a few punches and kicks. So, I decided to try to reason my way out of the situation by appealing to his protective instincts towards his own female relatives.

I asked him how he would have reacted had he passed his sister or mother in a similar situation. This resonated with him and he told me that he probably would have acted the way I did, but maintained that what happened between him and his girlfriend was none of my business. Both of them then left.

To my surprise, an older woman (probably in her 50s) who was looking on all the while, engaged me and another older male onlooker who was nearby, and scolded me for intervening “in the people business.” In her opinion, I should have kept my head straight and continued walking, especially since my intervention was not requested by the young woman who was being abused.

She then recalled instances where she and her past husband would get into verbal and physical brawls. “All ah duh is part of life,” she told me, before proudly adding that “when the two ah we in each other face yuh bettas don’t get involved else me and he gon turn pon yuh.”

This article in no way covers every dimension of domestic abuse, as there are other aspects, relating to cause and effect that I have not included. My intention is simply to use some of my observations to support the conclusion I have arrived at: Domestic abuse is accepted.

This is a monumentally serious issue, and it needs to be addressed with extreme prejudice. The question is how?  Many have tried, and many tactics have been tried, yet the scourge of domestic violence remains. But many more will try, and many more approaches will be conceived and implemented, in the meantime, I think I have made my point.