Tue | Jan 16, 2018

Michael Abrahams | Revisiting the 'Machete Mom'

Published:Monday | January 1, 2018 | 10:06 AM

The video was shocking. A woman, wearing only a panty, was beating a child mercilessly with a machete. I found it difficult to watch when I saw it at first, for not only was it violent, but I feared that at some point the woman might accidentally, or deliberately, chop the child and injure or even kill her. The attack was so brutal, that even a dog who apparently tried to intervene, was struck and scampered away. Fortunately, the machete wielding mother was very skillful and adept at executing her blows, without cutting the child, who eventually managed to escape.

After seeing the video, I was initially conflicted as I decided whether to post it on my Facebook page or not. On one hand, I did not want to contribute to embarrassing the child, but I also realised that she could have been in danger, and that by posting the video and asking for it to be circulated, someone may recognise the woman or the child and direct the relevant authorities to them. I eventually decided to post the video and contacted senior personnel at the Child Development Agency (CDA), who agreed with my decision and assured me that they would inform me when the family was located.

The girl and her mother were found the same day in St Thomas, and I subsequently took down the video as it had served its purpose. The recorded incident was the topic of conversation islandwide for days. While many were shocked and vitriolic in their comments directed at the mother, some saw nothing wrong with her mode of punishment, and there were even those who praised her for being a “good mother”, because the child was obviously disobedient. In the immediate aftermath of the release of the video, a voice note was circulated, in which a female was graphically describing how she felt when engaging in sexual activity with a man. It was alleged that the voice on the note was that of the girl on the receiving end of the machete thrashing, with many feeling that this justified the assault.

Like many disturbing events in Jamaica, this was a nine-day wonder. There was an uproar, people had lots to say, and then they carried on with their lives, unconcerned about the fates of those involved. And this is part of our problem.We talk a lot, but what do we actually do? We use social media enthusiastically, but do we realise that it can be an agent for positive change? In the case of the “machete mom”, it did make a difference in the lives of her and her children.

After the family was located, I was in regular dialogue with personnel from the CDA. I learnt that the family was in need of help, that the video was recorded by one of the child’s older siblings, that the girl had a twin, and that neither of them was attending school regularly. It was also established that the person speaking about sex on the voice note was definitely not the child in the video. Later, I visited my Facebook page and announced that the family needed assistance, and that if anyone was interested, they could inbox me, and I would direct them to the CDA officer involved in the case.

Few people communicated with me, but a gentleman who did, not only contacted the officer, but found himself in St Thomas and met the family. He has since been helping to send the children to school, and is in regular contact with the child and her mother. The CDA has also been involved, helping to maintain some degree of stability in the family.

The point I wish to make, is that we have more power to help others than we realise. We hear about cases of suffering or injustice and express our opinions, not realising that it really is not that hard to reach out and do something. Jamaica is a relatively small country. When we watch the news, read the newspaper or go online and encounter horror stories from our own back yard, finding those affected is usually not that difficult. A few phone calls or social media posts can lead you to those who are hurting. In the case of the child who was beaten with the machete, these posts and calls led to a stranger entering her life and helping to change it for the better.

As we enter a new year, I urge my fellow Jamaicans to reach out more to those in need. Many of us are hurting, and the pain is manifested as aggression and violence. Performing random acts of kindness is a start, and is great way to spread love, compassion and empathy, which our country so badly needs.

Do you think we could try that?

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams