Dealing with the troubling frequency of violence in households

Monday, April 15, 2019

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We are aware that female-on-male violence does occur in some households.

However, it's clear that the far bigger, more pressing problem involves the physical abuse of women by their male partners.

In some instances, violence takes place even after the relationship has ended and one partner has moved out of the house.

This newspaper recognises that spousal abuse is a global concern, but we can't help thinking that in Jamaica's case the situation is more extreme than most other places.

Last week, yet again, the nation had to confront stories of murder-suicide.

In the first instance, a correctional officer shot dead his wife, also a correctional officer, in the presence of their 12-year-old daughter, despite the cries of protestation from the child.

He then turned the gun on himself.

In the second case we are told that a man hit his common-law wife in the head with a stone severely injuring her. Apparently thinking she was dead, he hung himself.

The stories surrounding such tragedies usually follow a similar pattern. The man, thinking himself scorned, rejected, cuckolded, loses all sense of perspective and lashes out. Then he kills himself.

Sometimes, in defiance of all logic, murder-suicide appears to be planned well ahead of time.

Even in the absence of extreme violence leading to death or serious injury, spouse beating is known to happen quite regularly, through decades of marriage, even into old age, often for petty reasons.

Children in such situations suffer extreme emotional trauma. All too often children are direct victims of violence.

Much of this flows from a deeply embedded cultural view that a man should have a dominant role in any relationship with a woman. Indeed, it is a belief system which suggests that men own women.

Also, it seems to us that the troubling frequency of violence in households, as well as the wider society, goes back to that accursed, age-old habit of using the rod and strap as first disciplinary resort in bringing up children.

The experts have said so, and available evidence suggests that those who experienced violence while growing up are the ones most likely to resort to it as adults.

We are aware that while corporal punishment may not have disappeared completely from primary schools, etc, it is very rapidly on the wane.

In households also, parents at all levels of society need to buy into the habit of ignoring the rod and strap and find other ways of disciplining their children.

Twinned to this approach must be a proactive effort to help boys and girls respect each other from early. This, while seeking to discourage the idea that one should seek to dominate the other.

Men and women should enter relationships as equal partners. That will increasingly happen if they can accept the notion from childhood.

We are aware that in some relatively well-organised communities, parenting groups and other progressive organisations actively provide guidance for parents in this regard.

It seems to us that the society will reap rich reward in generations to come if there is developed a creative, coherent public education campaign embracing formal and informal media, school, church, et al, aimed particularly at the young, messaging the value of non-violence and cross-gender respect.


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