Let's reason | Jamaica's endangered species
There is a discourse that calls issues of sexual violence and abuse, female issues. The mere reference to issues that cast women as victims, female issues, removed the central perpetrator from the equation. If a woman is abused, beaten or killed, we ask ourselves and others around us, "a what she do to him?"
We seemingly exonerate the other party from any responsibility. We believe that women are solely responsible for what happens to them and by doing the right things, they can be saved. We appreciate the issue of male violence from a female perspective and by doing so make men blameless.
Of course, 'the dutty neiga dem' receive a solemn nod of disappointment but then the conversation returns to the woman. Too often, if you listen closely to the conversation, you'll hear that a woman needs to cover up herself more, she needs to always walk with someone else; you'll hear she needs to pay better attention to the taxi she's driving in or the person who stops to 'help her'.
Inherently, women have become an endangered species and as a society, we have misunderstood the origins.
We look on as if monsters come out of the sea, commit these acts and disappear into the night. But the truth is, we have cultivated it. We have so affirmed male sexual dominance, females as commodities and outlawed male sensitivity as gayness, that it is no longer masculine to care about women. Fathering children and walking away to sow seeds is accepted as normal. To do anything else is praiseworthy. Our society has brewed this.
It's women that keep this society's fabric together. Let's not forget. At the end of the day, we ask women the tough questions, but as a society, we have to call ourselves to the carpet and start asking better questions. Not just of women, but of everyone. We are all in need of a solution. When these things happen, instead of asking what she did how about asking:
1. What's going on with men why they have a need to kill our women?
2. What's wrong with men why they are raping and sexually assaulting our young girls and women?
3. Why are there not stricter penalties for sexual and gender based violence crimes?
4. What institutions have birthed this breed of men, who have such limited coping skills that their primary mode is violence?
5. What can we do now to stem the tide in violent crimes against women and children?
6. How can we arm women now in preparation for any possibility?
7. Do our women know how to properly defend themselves against violent attacks when they happen?
We have too many meaningful questions that can advance the agenda of reducing violent crimes against women to be asking questions that do nothing to erase or decrease the fact that every day women and girls are being violently attacked by men.
Additionally, where are the men who are willing to stand up and say this is not right? I realise that the majority of movements, initiatives and campaigns against violence against women and girls are led by ...women. Is it that men are not willing to stand up and say that male dominance has gone too far? I don't mean individual grumblings amongst themselves, I mean an angry outcry because they too have sisters and wives and girlfriends and daughters who, if the last few months are any predictor of the future, are surely in danger?
Let us also remember that while women are on the forefront of these attacks, it is these same men who also violently and sexually assault our young boys and attack other men. So men are not immune to what's happening.
Women remaining safe and sound in Jamaica is not an empowerment issue. It's not a feminist agenda.
It's everybody's mandate. Man, woman, boy and girl. And it's time our voices are heard beyond protesting about politics and high gas prices.
Women are dying, and it must stop. We can no longer turn a deaf ear to their cries.
- Dr Susaye Rattigan is a clinical psychologist and life and business coach. She is currently practising at Health + Wellness, Sagicor Montego Bay Shopping Centre in St James.
She specialises in women's health issues and empowerment with a focus on success and empowerment strategies. She can be reached at email@example.com.