JANELLE DE SOUZA continues an examination of domestic violence among women and men.
Reducing violence against women needs to start by instilling love, respect, and patience in our children. Society also has to stop condoning violence in general, and especially among boys.
Data from the Crime and Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch of the TTPS indicated that from 2012 to 2017, the reported cases of domestic violence gradually decreased from 1,962 to 1,122. However, in 2017 alone, there were 43 domestic-violence-related homicides, the highest number of cases in those five years.
According to CAPA, 19 women were killed as a result of domestic violence – two by their spouse or ex, one by her sister-in-law, one by her father, and 15 by other relatives. Of the 24 men that were killed, four were killed by their spouse or ex, three by their brothers, one by his grandfather, two by their stepfathers, and 14 by other relatives.
Psychological counsellor Franklin Dolly said one of the reasons for these high numbers was the way boys and men were being socialised. He said when dealing with conflict, males were taught not to back down, to use physical size and force to make the opponent surrender, to use violence with other males.
He said when boys fought in school, people excused the violence saying “boys will be boys.” He added that about 75 per cent of murders were male on male violence but they were usually regarded as “just another murder.”
Females on the other hand, were taught that violence was not the answer. He said they were usually taught to talk things out and find peaceful resolutions. Therefore, they learned the skill of negotiation and making decisions based on logic and facts, rather than purely on anger.
Dolly said while condoning verbal, physical, emotional, or financial violence amongst males, it was usually stressed that the same interactions should not be used with females. He gave the example of fighting in school. He said if a boy fought another boy, he may be given three days suspension, but if he fought a girl, he may be given as much as a month’s suspension. Another example was that of the “violent, hostile language” used in Parliament. He said between men, it was called banter or fatigue, but those same men would not speak to a woman in the same manner.
However, he said people should not be surprised that the same method males used to resolve conflicts among themselves was bleeding over to their interactions with women because they were not taught differently.
“We are socialising our boys, more and more, that violence is a way of resolving when it comes to male/male, but they have to be restrained with females. When the men now go and use that same violence, which they have learned is the way to resolve conflict, against a woman or a child, it makes headlines.”
“Unless we can change our societal norms, that violence as a way of resolving conflict, unless we condemned it at all times and stress that it is inappropriate, we will continue paying for it. It will continue to escalate.”
He said 30 years ago, men would settle conflicts with fists and feet so the end results were usually injuries. However, he said they now used tools of violence including guns and knives and other methods that resulted in death.
Dolly admitted that some men might have a psychosis but he believed society supported domestic abuse by trivialising male/male violence, and by victim blaming. “When these things happen, some people ask, ‘What she do to make him hit her? She must have done something to make this man hit her.’ In supporting this behaviour year after year it becomes the norm and we have to stop the norm! It is not proper behaviour.”
Domestic violence goes viral
Clinical and counselling psychologist Nidhi Kirpalani said it was possible that some men’s self-centredness drove them to be absorbed in rage so that, not only would they kill the object of their anger, but others as well. “Picture a raging bull with a target and anyone that is perceived to be in the way is taken out. We need to teach ourselves and our children how to manage their anger.”
She explained that anger and other emotions were produced mainly in the part of the brain called the amygdala. She said anger “hijacks” the pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for humans making rational decisions.
“If you lack the skills, the emotional intelligence to be aware of your triggers and how to calm your anger, then you continue to make irrational decisions, such as murder, without fully thinking through the consequences (death, prison, loss of freedom, etc). The consequences have to be of value to the person. There are prisoners who have said to me that prison is a good life, so they are comfortable with repeating a crime and going to do their time. The consequence of prison was not enough to keep them from engaging in such acts.”
Kirpalani stressed that the number of cases of domestic violence, and even fatal cases, had not necessarily increased, but was now more visible because they were shared on the internet and various social media apps just minutes after they happened. “We are also aware that with all the technology and improvements in trade, etc, it is much easier for people to access weapons if they so desire.”
She reiterated that men were also victims, and many perpetrators were also women.
This was backed up by TTPS data which showed that last year, 336 men were victims of domestic violence. The TTPS separated the data into categories including homicide, sexual abuse, assault by beating, breach of protection order, child abuse and abandonment, malicious damage, psychological abuse, threats, verbal abuse, and wounding. Twenty-four of the 336 men were victims of homicides and four of the 24 were killed by their spouses or people with whom they had previous relationships.
Kirpalani said people, both men and women, refused to take “no” for an answer and part of that was the concept of instant gratification. She said with the technology now available, anyone could contact another person but they get agitated when a response takes more than two minutes. “Far less when another human in front of them, who they believe is supposed to be tending to their needs. So if that person is not tending to our needs right away, they get infuriated and as they are self-centred, they feel they have rights over another human immediately. They cannot wait patiently to change and earn a successful relationship.”
Therefore, she said it was important to show children love and teach them patience, respect, and how to earn respect and love. She also encouraged parents to “bring back the times” when manners were important and children were actively playing sports instead of being idle.
She said it was necessary to teach children that respect was not the same as fear and fear was not love. She added that children needed to be taught by example, not by sitting in front of a computer or television.
“A great human is not built on fear. This is what abusers use. This is what bullying is. It is creating a false sense of power and respect by instilling fear, and belittling others so that you can feel better about yourself.”