BY R.D. Miller
Taking a walk for much needed awareness
This month saw many races and runs against domestic violence. In my community, members of the public safety services, treatment providers and advocates came out in purple for a 5k annual run.
This warm beautiful day navigating a busy trail, a gay couple holding hands smiled and nodded in encouragement to finish. Their own plight, struggles, and those who have been lost to crime from decades of irrational hatred and fear from heterosexual groups or HIV/AIDS, has come a long way as society has evolved.
As this winter approaches, fewer footprints tread the trails, the changing leaves will disappear as hibernation sets in, until the next 70-degree weather arrives and the purple re-emerges.
Despite huge strides for equality, more needs to be done, especially in places where it is difficult to wear an extra layer of heavy clothing – even to disguise one’s identity or the scars from abuse – places where 70 degrees can be scorned as a cold day.
Along the beautiful shores of the Caribbean, more purple races and trail walks are needed to help victims escape their trapped abusive relationships, spread awareness, and generate more resources to support change in the ongoing waves of domestic violence and entrenched history of homophobia.
Facing it head on:
Addressing domestic violence and homophobia as a single category is not a farfetched idea. It is a strategy that recognizes a correlated connective feeling, similar attitudes and struggles. First, it is a mechanism to inform and focus. Second, a way to carry out more intervention to cut both domestic and family violence. Third, it encourages respect for differences.
Wherever you have sexual assault, exploitation, child trafficking, and targeting of people for who they are, these are in a category with domestic violence, and all at times can lead to death. Violence creates a pattern of psychological and economic impact, especially when children are involved. Such traumatic experiences have long-term critical consequences.
The luscious greenery, breathtaking sunsets and blue water symbolize a liberated vacation for many visitors, but outside their villas and hotel rooms, victims are routinely teased, bullied and even killed thanks to ignorance – even by ‘straight’ perpetrators who may have their own struggles with homosexual tendencies, as studies have shown.
Structural and mental deficiencies continue to create a roadblock. This not only limits overall economic growth and opportunities to further highlight these colors without fear, it causes discrimination in employment and encourages polarization.
“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence regardless of their gender and sexual orientation” – an excerpt from a proclamation by President Obama on May 29, 2015 at a LGBT pride event.
If it feels wrong, it is wrong
Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships anywhere. The victims are abused, and yet forced to stay silent in this epidemic. The economic, social, and moral consequences still linger.
There are plenty of definitions of domestic violence and of homophobia; I will not force you to read yet another. Basically, we are discussing any situation where masculinity and femininity are narrowly defined in a way that discourages objectivity and the rule of law, removes basic rights and renders individuals powerless.
These frightening and terrorizing attitudes are not simply confined to the external scars. According to leading scholars, even when disputes are being mediated, families are still at high risk. With limited resources in rural areas, victims remain unprotected even after court decisions and sometimes death still occurs. Harassment through the court system in these male-dominant systems gives an opportunity to coerce an can lead to lower penalties for offenders.
When society begins to discuss making strong statements and supporting groups that help victims reclaim their dignity, encourage legal reform to reduce crime, and educate others in understanding the motivation, then purple will find its true place and the vulnerable will not be lost.
This is not simple morality and life expectancy. A xenophobia pattern still exists in purple (victims). Socio-economic status, race, and cultural identifiers of violence continue to plague poor communities. Victims are intimidated against coming forward and the only confirms the victim’s taboo of the moral consequences.
A poor gay person abused in Africa, or an individual who lives under a bridge in Jamaica, are each as important as Rihanna publishing scars from abuse she received during her domestic troubles. Violence hurts everyone, anywhere.
No one is immune from violence.
Repeated victimization can force a victim to rationalize between love and violence, blaming themselves and thinking he or she can change the other’s violence. Those uninvited visits, being tracked by GPS, is not love, it is simple stalking.
The dark side:
Some blame slavery’s dark period and the dehumanization of black women as a factor in how some women are treated today. Despite their accomplishments, a few still believe the place for women is in the kitchen, where they should be pregnant, while homosexuality is a sin and morally wrong.
However, abusing one’s partner over a disagreement, and treating a person as property while preaching that God is love from the pulpit, while dictating who should be loved and how, is not much different from 16-century colonial laws enabling exclusion and imperialism.
The cycle of power and control is seldom talked about, yet many scholars have argued that when a woman’s only meal depends on whether the man comes home that evening, this creates a strong incentive to stay in an abusive situation.
The authorities are key to the survival of these victims: Not acting due to the lack of physical scars is common but problematic. The role of emergency services should continue after the call ends and the first responders leave.
The lack of intervention only creates more victims. Aunt Suzie up the road can provide a temporary shelter, but she too hates gays and lesbians because of her parents’ views. She now lives in an abusive relationship and never discusses it because of fear, shame, and more abuse, and how it looks on the family.
A leading international journal noted that domestic violence accounted for about 19 percent of the total burden of healthcare for women aged 15-44. They use the health care system more than others do, and for several years after, even when the violence has stopped.
Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults each year according to experts
One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
More than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.
Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at a higher rate.
The World Bank, about 20 years ago, highlighted that in Barbados, about 30 percent of women aged 20 to 45 reported having been battered. In the British Virgin Islands, 29 percent of 330 women surveyed by the Chief Minister’s Office reported physical abuse by partners. In Jamaica, police reported 39 percent of murders committed in 1998 involved domestic disputes. In Trinidad and Tobago, incest reports increased by more than 200 percent in 1998, according to a local coalition on domestic violence.
Today, sexual abuse, domestic violence and requests for restraining orders are much higher, in the thousands. Domestic violence costs people, the state, and businesses about $23 billion based on several advocate studies that quantified pain and suffering costs as well as the costs of services used by victims and the reduction in economic output.
Inside the LGBT community, there are several reports of an increase in murders since 2010. Youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence.
The new monument designed by Anthony Goicolea will honor the LGBT community and victims of the Orlando massacre. (Courtesy of the artist and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
When media sources politicize domestic violence and homophobia, including conferences on violence open to a selected few, what people hear often confuses loud, mindless, opinions for leadership. These issues cannot be used for political gain when several reports have shown that the region still lacks policies to protect victims in general.
Anti-Homophobia day celebration at the Fondation Serovie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Katie Orlinsky
Today’s violence along the shores is not simply due to poverty alone, but decades of unresolved social issues, where even the offender has been a victim and there are scarce resources for treatment and accountability. Reporting crime should not put victims at higher risk.
See you at the next walk or run, or even standing under a banner for safety for those still only searching for survival, and the soul of their community.