Down with the violence

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They wear dark glasses and copious amounts of make-up to hide the black eyes and the bruised faces. The long-sleeved dresses and the pants are to conceal the black-and-blue marks and welts about the arms and legs.  They laugh a dry, mirthless laugh; and try to engage in ordinary conversation, but it all rings hollow. You can see the sadness in their eyes. These are the victims of partner abuse who suffer unimaginable horrors at the hands of people who profess to love them. It is the horrible tragedy of domestic violence that usually ends in the surcease of the victim. In fact, our Prime Minister, while commenting on the awful circumstances surrounding the recent demise of Althea Henry, a fifty-year-old mother of three, noted that most of the murders over the past twelve to eighteen months here in Antigua and Barbuda, were the result of domestic violence. Althea was murdered this past Sunday. Her twenty-one-year-old son was grievously wounded in the bloodbath and remains in the Sir Lester Bird Mount St. John’s Medical Centre (SLBMSJMC).

Consider, if you will, the terrible case of a woman of Jamaican extraction, who was murdered in St. John’s, in broad daylight, a few days before her birthday in November of last year. This is one of the cases to which the PM is perhaps referring. A regional newspaper ran the sad headline, JAMAICAN MOTHER OF FOUR VICIOUSLY ‘MURDERED BY LOVER’ IN ANTIGUA. It was a story that tore at our hearts, and we cried out for something more to be done to protect men and women in relationships that are fraught with abuse and can only end badly.

The thing is that many of the victims of partner violence, for some inexplicable reason, sometimes resign themselves to that dangerous cycle of violence followed by the obligatory words of apology and contrition. They accept chocolates and flowers and other gifts from their erstwhile tormentor. They hope that the last beating at the hands of the enraged abuser will indeed be the end of the horror. IT NEVER IS! Meantime, they cover for the abuser. They attempt to explain-away the bruises and the obvious signs of something untoward. The tell lies to friends, family members and colleagues as to how those bruises arrived on their bodies. They even apologise to the abuser for making him or her angry, and actually blame themselves for stoking his or her ire. Yes, the abused will somehow rationalise and justify the abuse. What a sick situation.

And yes, even as he is administering a beating, the abuser is telling the victim words to the effect, ”See what you made me do? It’s your fault.” And the victim often agrees. Sigh! Talk about the Stockholm Syndrome –  a twisted emotional response where abuse and hostage victims have positive feelings toward an abuser or captor. That syndrome was named after four employees of a bank in Sweden, who were held hostage during a botched robbery, and who strangely developed an incongruous bond with their captor.

In the case of Althea Henry, she was brutally battered and beaten and left for dead, much like a dog, in Radio Range in 2017 allegedly by a perpetrator whom she knew and loved. Inexplicably to many observers, Althea Henry declined to press charges against her attempted murderer, and that was that. Case closed. Again, we refer you to the above-mentioned Stockholm Syndrome.

Meanwhile, we draw your attention to Dr Cleon Athill’s pointed remarks yesterday on this latest tragedy. Dr Athill is a social psychologist, speaking out passionately and agitating against domestic violence and abuse. Wrote she: “The news of the [latest] killing had a strange effect on me. I felt my body go limp, numb. My reaction to incidents like this is usually a visceral one. But now, numbness. Notwithstanding this numbness though, flashes of stories of dead sisters came bearing down…. sisters killed in the prime of their lives by men whom they loved, the men who said they loved them. I remember the news of women…hacked, strangled, their bodies buried in shallow graves, tossed away in bushes, left as scraps….and yes, bodies still waiting to be found. [Our sister] is now a part of this heap! I’ve written, spoken and advocated on this very issue. My argument is that our culture, steeped in patriarchy and misogyny…our beliefs, folkways, values, practices all facilitate violence against women.. We have a lot of work to do here. But today, I wish to focus on our justice system…the response of police and the court to violence against women, to women who seek redress through the justice system when they are violated by the men they love and or live with. Women still face questions about dress, about movement, about association. Women still have to make a case as to why they should not have been raped, assaulted, harassed, and yes, killed! And, women’s and girls’ pleas to pardon the perpetrators have more weight than evidence in our court. So today, my issue is with our justice system. My questions are for the police – about the kind of work they would have done to build a case [in an attack on a sister]? Was her attacker charged with attempted murder? Where was the DPP in all of this? Does a victim’s plea to pardon her attacker who hacked her and left her for dead, serve to abort the pursuit of justice? And even if the victim makes this plea, would this absolve the police and the DPP from their responsibility to pursue this matter in the court. Isn’t  attempted murder a serious charge?  . . . !” Hmmm! The good doctor is in a foul mood, as are we here at NEWSCO, and all the good citizens of this fair land of ours – a land that is once again drenched in blood. And that blood is crying out from the soil for JUSTICE!

Interestingly, Dr Athill made reference to “the men who said they loved them,” and it casts our minds back to a decidedly less genteel, and more violent time when a beating at the hands of a companion was considered, in some very pathetic way, synonymous with love. King Obstinate sang a piece in the late 1970’s that was greeted with giggles and much merriment and mirth about “When ah heat-up de sweet oil and douse you wid om / And tek de machete and open yuh cranium / Is love ah love you! . . . Darling, dat’s what love is all about!” Good grief! Heaven help us with this warped thinking!

It is time for us to finally put an end to this twisted nonsense. Love ought not to hurt! Abuse should never be condoned or covered up. It should always be reported. Failing which, it will only get worse. We should never ignore the signs that something is amiss. And yes, we ought to speak out loudly against domestic abuse. DOWN WITH THE VIOLENCE!

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