Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Herbert Gayle | Misconceptions about domestic violence

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Herbert Gayle

In the last 10 years, I have done nine workshops that include training in domestic violence, including with security officers in three Caribbean states. I am always amazed at the gap between the legal meaning of domestic violence (used by the police) and the 'North-funded' campaign one.

Recently (November 2016), I called 100 educated persons (50 males and 50 females) and asked the following four true-or-false questions; and only 19 (13 females and six males) got all four correct. Telephone true-or-false mini surveys encourage persons to give 'first responses'. Had I used texts, some persons would do deep soul-searching and even quick research. While no question had a half of the correct response, the responses of the males were poor.

1. Domestic violence and intimate-partner violence (IPV) always mean the same (44 false).

2. Women are the primary victims of all forms of domestic violence (36 false).

3. Women account for about 90 per cent of the victims of intimate partner violence (29 false).

4. Domestic violence is directly affected by male-versus-male violence (39 true).

Domestic violence and intimate-partner violence: Are they the same? Did you know that domestic violence legally implies where the act (in the home) was committed, and to whom (family, kin)? When people study violence, they treat domestic violence as physical, emotional or psychological, sexual and economic (neglect).




The victims of domestic violence: who are they? In Jamaica, domestic violence affects boys, girls, elderly and disabled, women and men - in that order in terms of frequency and/or intensity. However, this is what will emerge if you do a scientific study in Jamaica (not the North). Notice again that we are referring to various forms of violence in the home or among family and kin.

Children are affected by almost all forms of domestic violence directly and indirectly. They are even secondary victims of partner violence. In London (NHS 2016 data), 50 per cent of all homes with IPV also have obvious child abuse. In fact, 90 per cent of the children can hear or see the violence between partners. Three-quarters of children on at-risk registers live in homes with domestic violence. In most countries, children are physically battered, sexually abused, abducted, emotionally harmed, and neglected more than adults suffer.

In Jamaica and Belize, boys are the primary victims of physical abuse and neglect in the home setting. In 28 inner cities covered in Jamaica between 2004 and 2014, an alarming 45 per cent of 2,316 young men were observed by neighbours to endure extreme physical abuse (including torture) during childhood. And some of them have unleashed hell on us and on our women! Boys are three times more likely than girls to suffer from chronic hunger.




Twenty-five per cent of boys in various studies in Jamaica and Belize hustle. Hustling boys are the most violent and most likely to join a gang. Boys are also more likely than anyone else to be psychologically scarred by verbal abuse, especially being called 'worthless' or branded 'hopeless'. They are also more likely to be abandoned and less likely to be adopted.

While boys suffer in the public, many girls are traded like cattle and are quietly enslaved in houses run by people they call 'auntie' and 'uncle' because of our child-shifting practices. Girls are far more likely than boys to be sexually abused and trafficked - even pimped by parents and other relatives in Jamaica when poverty hits the family. Children in Jamaica suffer from immense abuse. Unfortunately, UNICEF has not been as successful in raising consciousness as they would have liked. The challenge for UNICEF is the reality that we see children as property - and their abuse is 'people's private business'.

We used to see the battering of women in the same way, but thankfully that is changing because of aggressive campaigning. It is urgent that we protect children with at least the same level of energy.

Jamaica suffers from adapting any agenda that comes from the North due partly to funding; and 'Gender' finally has money. Yet the abuse of children is one of the root causes of incessant intimate partner violence. More than a half of the men who batter women were abused during childhood; more than a half of the women who torture their children were abused during childhood.

- Herbert Gayle is an anthropologist. Email feedback to