THE prevalence of domestic violence, oftentimes leading to murder, seems uncontrollable and this scourge, apart from creating orphans that would most likely remain traumatized for most of their lives, is a drain on the nation’s coffers. It is hoped that the new Government, through all its Social Protection arms, inclusive of the Guyana Police Force, will device a holistic approach to problem-resolution within families so that dialogue and discussion become the norm rather than the exception.
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, under the previous PPP/C administration, ran an advertisement in the print media of Sunday 9th November, 2008 titled: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; “BREAK THE CYCLE, TAKE CONTROL”
The ad defines domestic violence as “behaviour which causes one partner in a relationship to be afraid of the other. Domestic violence can take the form of physical or sexual abuse and forced social isolation away from friends and family members.”
It prescribes one’s rights, which are laid out in the Domestic Violence Act (1996) as “recognized under the law and law enforcement agencies, such as the courts,” and stipulates that the Guyana Police Force must help to enforce the rights of, and offer protection to, any man, woman, or child who may be experiencing domestic violence.
Some signs of domestic violence are described as persistent verbal abuse. For example, quarreling and cursing (I will add to that derogating one’s character and making unjustifiable insulting remarks about one’s self and one’s loved ones; threatening the person with physical violence (threatening to hit the person with hands or objects) as well as actually hitting the person; damaging the property of a person. For example, breaking a person’s cellphone, tearing or burning a person’s clothing, among other things; following a person from place to place, even though that person does not want to be followed– defined as ‘stalking’; hiding clothing or property used by the person. For example, hiding a person’s cellphone, their clothing, their identification card, their passport, and even their money; make persistent and/or unwelcome contact with the person. For example, calling the person on their cellphone or home phone many times per day, watching the person’s house, waiting for the person to leave work or place of study, following the person from home or work, even though that person does not want to be followed or watched; and using abusive language to a person, or behaving towards a person in such a way that could result in that person being ill-treated. For example, cursing and quarreling with a person in front of others, and then encouraging others to do the same.
The ad goes on to suggest actions one should take to protect oneself (and possibly others) from domestic violence, and to provide a descriptive analysis of a Protection Order.
One of the suggestions made is to make a report to the nearest police station, and therein lies a conundrum.
Those who are supposed “To Protect and Serve” most often have provided the catalyst for a tragedy to occur by their attitude, attention, or lack thereof, and plain don’t-care-a-damn behaviour when a complainant drums up the requisite courage (most often with great difficulty) and lodges a complaint.
Many victims of continuous abuse are killed because of the complacency of the members of the Police Force who refuse to investigate complaints and lay charges, or take the actions necessary to protect the victim from further abuse.
Guyanese have stopped being our brother’s (and sister’s) keepers because, in many communities, neighbours witnessing a continuum of, and escalating instances of abuse refuse to become involved. They prefer to enjoy the unfolding tragedy, even adding to it with malicious rumour-mongering and strife-making, because the titillation of feuds and wars within families find a corresponding resonance in the dark nuances resident in every soul, and the average person refuses to rise above their more decadent equivalencies to achieve a higher plane of thoughts and actions, enough to maybe intercede, and probably save, a family from ultimate destruction.
And one wonders what part the church bodies and religious leaders play in melding communities into units cohesive enough to fashion strategies for interventions within families and the general society in efforts to divert energies into more productive and peaceful approaches to conflict resolution – even to the point of empowerment.
The acceleration in violence-prone conflicts within families and societies is spiralling out of control, to the extent where many lives have been lost, with many more dislocated, and there seems to be no end in sight.
Unless there is a holistic, proactive approach, where all stakeholders in the nation are made aware that this cause and this fight is a national one because, more often than not, it is our children – the future generations of our nation who are the statistics of domestic violence, every effort made –valiant and committed as they may be, will prove woefully inadequate, because domestic violence is a national tradition entrenched in the Guyanese psyche.