Commentary: Domestic violence awareness: Another missed opportunity

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The timing might not be right, I get it.
If not now, when?
This is an old story, I get it. However, there are always new victims.
They have already been punished, I get that! However, the pain never stops.
The victim went back with him. Could it be lack of support, and fear?
He needs second chance. That is important, and so do others.
The network is not the world’s police, rightfully so
There are many other things to talk about, will do

Missed Opportunity: This year several personal and business resolutions have been missed. No one for sure can predict which story will dominate this year’s headlines. However, if history is our guide, despite today’s cynicism and, and lack of trust in government and leadership, many communities should be focusing on policies and resources for several women who will become victims this year. This issue affects extended family, neighbours, schools, and friends; the list goes on.DVIP2

Late November 2014, many tuned into the Soul Train music award on Black Entertainment (BET), and Centric TV. My interest was to see Kool and the Gang receive a lifetime award for 50 years in the industry and not the glamour, fashion, music critics, and chatter about who came with whom. After the show ended, the telephone rang. “His appearance and platform brought back memories of Rhianna’s face,” they stated. What if Chris Brown made a statement that said “violence against women is wrong” before his performance; would that have changed anything?” You might not agree for the reasons outlined earlier.

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Tennasse Chin-Jamaica

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Machel Montano-Trinidad & Tobago

However, this is not about Chris Brown, who assaulted Rhianna few years earlier. It is about millions of young teenagers, especially women who normally tune-in to watch the show. What is certain, one in five women who perhaps sat and watched these events is a victim or knows and/or saw an abused person, raped, coerced into sex, or otherwise during her lifetime. In addition, nearly one in five teenage girls have been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup, according to the Washington Coalition against Violence. Even the US Army has seen an increase in sexual assault in 2014.

Domestic violence stretches beyond a sound stage, and especially in the Caribbean where silence tends to morph as the laid back atmosphere while case numbers are staggering, gushing up against women faces like the ocean. The Trinidad Express reported about 11,382 domestic violence cases filed two years earlier. In Jamaica, research has shown over 9,000, and 300 sexual assaults cases reported in the same year. Today, I also wonder what if international soca superstar Machel Montano from Trinidad and Tobago, who received an award, and Jamaica’s Tessanne Chin, former winner of the Voice USA, were given a chance highlight more awareness.DVIP3

Responsibility: These television networks also have been instrumental on many social awareness of importance issues, such as AIDS, drugs, wars, voting, marriage equality that transcends across borders. It is clear Influence 1from seeing first-hand the influence these networks have, from technology, fashion, social and political in poor and developing countries. This year more cameras should be used to make domestic violence an unconformable topic in these regions where it remains a serious issue. The implication here is not that every award function and performers are responsible for crimes committed against women, nor one should one be forced to place a permanent disclaimer on the television screen about domestic violence at each event. Nevertheless, with success comes responsibility.

Domestic violence is an epidemic. It must be treated as a national issue such as the murder rate that is high per-capita in some of the countries in the region. Although it is still an uphill battle, combined with constant images plastered in music videos and other settings that promotes a tunnel vision of female beauty. Nevertheless, more women are using their academic achievements and making a huge difference. They are now surpassing men in college degrees. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health-care. Seventy-five percent of women identify themselves as the primary shoppers for their households; $90 billion of consumer electronic purchases according to several studies. If she decides to tune out, my products will not be sold.

The Impact: The year 2015 should be about the possible, and not what is popular. Many more global award shows will be on schedule from the Carnival, Reggae Sun Splash, Grammy, Super Bowl, the Golden Globe, and the Oscars. Other networks will continue to search for the “Big Get” to interview another high profile domestic violence case. These “Gets” sometimes creates the wrong impression that, because the perpetrators and the victim are rich and famous, it can be fixed immediately. The reality is that, re-victimization is silent while a television rating gets loud. A powerful abuser can be charming. The victim often believes it is just a one-time occurrence. Unfortunately, many times these big stories are simple a prepared speech.
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In an email to me, she wrote, while living in the Caribbean during the 1960s, she suffered years of domestic abuse by her first husband who raped and punched repeatedly even in his sleep. Immediately, he would apologize. When she reported the to the local police department with signs of an abuse; the police shrugged it off, and told her, “She must have done him something”. She also recalled a co-worker who used heavy make-up to hide her bruises, and a friend she lost when her husband severed her head.media cam

Far too often it seems media pundits cannot resist overtime drive for an outcome of this violence, rather than focusing on the cause. The victim’s support is paramount, especially to escape an abusive relationship. The fear of financial hardship and of losing their children, and safety concerns, combined with the lack of support remain a hurdle. Remaining silent because of shame has to be debunked. This only leads to more abuse. Domestic violence, rape, murder, and other crimes have left many hearts broken in 2014. These incidents seem to have become a normal way of life as perpetrators continue to commit more crimes.

DVIP5The Disconnect: One would hope a victim’s race, colour, sexual orientation, economic status, or nationality does not diminish this problem in 2015, and beyond. The lens by which some see this epidemic only promotes more intolerance, which is as dangerous as the act itself. For example: “what I called the location gay” Inside this gay, lesbian, and transgender community, despite the fight for equality for all, one’s socio-economic status remains a barrier sometimes for inclusion.

The xenophobia of domestic violence excusing criminal behaviour must be stopped and is extremely troubling. When pop superstar Rhianna became a victim, her Barbadian nationality became more important than the abuse itself. One lady suggested that “the Caribbean bitch probably put some roots on him. She was too much in love with this America boy, and do not understand the culture that he needed space.” Another, “He better watch himself, those island women are crazy.” And he just smacked down the Caribbean.

I get it again, millions of records sold. I get it again, it’s record sales, stupid!
Punch 1When does it become a crime? A woman who has been punched in Barbados or in Boston should not make a difference, it hurts anywhere. Furthermore, the narrative has to change, as many pundits would like to believe that only black men and the black community are associated with domestic violence cases. Domestic violence affects everyone. Stop the Violence Against Women, an advocate group, compiled a list of studies from the United Kingdom, which quantified pain and suffering costs as well as the costs of services used by victims and the reduction in economic output due to domestic abuse, and concluded that domestic violence costs people, the state, and businesses about $23 billion. Sometimes, given the slow responses to other epidemics and other social issues, optimism remains elusive.

Keeping the Focus: New events have a way of taking over the news cycle: For example, the grand juries’ decisions not indict two police officers, one in St Louis, Missouri, after the shooting of an unarmed young black male, and Eric Garner’s death in New York. The assassination of two York city officers. However, the US is not alone. Several parts of the Caribbean have seen their share of fallen officers. The Taliban killed over 100 young students in Pakistan for seeking an education, Boko Haram stepped up its attack in Nigeria, gas price at a record low, the president approval numbers have gone up, and Cuba now has a new friend, the US, the economy has rebounded, and so society moved on.

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

These geopolitical, criminal, economic, and social issues are important to discuss, but unfortunately, domestic violence awareness quietly diminished from airwaves. Putting off this subject is as dangerous, as many women who stayed in their toxic relationships for decades. Such as Santa’s wish, domestic violence focus has to become prime time like Scandal, Days of Our Lives, or Downton Abbey popular television shows. This topic cannot be highlighted if only the elites are involved. For many parts of the world, it is a major problem, and perpetrators are going unpunished and unnoticed.

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January 11, 2015 (AFP Photo/Philippe Wojazer)

Finally: It is critical that more local and international artistes use their platforms to spread awareness. When women lose their trust in the judicial system, it creates silence. This year, the mentality of a few will not change who believe that women are to be seen and not heard. Gender bias will not disappear. Many abusers will compete again; show up at your local concerts. Millions of young women will be screening, and even you will dance. The hope is at least a few will show up with a picture of the abused women and families killed. Domestic violence cannot be a missed opportunity.real men do not hit

“I was guilty too because this article should have been published earlier.”

 

 

 

 

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Commentary: No Snitch! The new number one selling tee-shirt

snitchOver the past few months, I have followed Vybz Kartel’s murder trial. He was recently convicted for the 2011 murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams. What I really wanted to know was how the victim and families became lost in the debates. I am not sure if they feared retaliation so they laid low. I would have liked hear how they felt with support.

Previously, as I have noted here, the trial was all about the prosecutor, and the Jamaican government celebrity, money and a distrusted system under one roof. Now that he has been sentenced, it seems this trial will have a lasting effect on the communities. Again, the region still struggles to fight off skepticism when it comes to the criminal justice environment.

Recently, it was reported that Mr Kytel has spoken to the authorities, and they received more information, which led to over 17 guns confiscated from the community. I do not have any proof of that, and may be somewhat skeptical, but any guns off any street always save lives, and the department should be commended for its continued efforts.

I am not under any illusions that the department is not under pressure in recent years to change the criminal atmosphere; however, they alone cannot be blamed for every criminal element that is taking over the region. It takes stakeholders, from the local pastor to community organizations, and leadership in government, to make a difference and this is not just guns fighting guns.

If Mr Kytel has provided information to the authorities now, perhaps there should have been a plea deal if one had not been offered. This maybe would have resulted in more arrests of members of the gangs  as reported that were afflicted with the killing. Moreover, why would the police department update the public on this information without any arrests as this point? Does this information make a different or change opinions already formed about the system, not only in Jamaica, but also throughout the region?

Here is the point of the article: The other issue where does the word snitch fits into the ongoing criminal elements where everyone knows everybody. Today, there is still no sign of the victim’s body from the recent murder trial.

Nevertheless, on a recent visit to the islands, between my walk from the airport to the parking lot, I met two young men wearing tee-shirts with the infamous “No Snitch” printed in bold.

Snitching came to Main Street about ten years ago as I can recall. It has been part of the American criminal environment that was more known to be associated with the Mafia enterprise for decades. It gained mainstream attention in the black and minority communities when a video surfaced of drug dealers threatening violence against members of a crew not to talk to police. I do not have any other historical documents on this concept, other than the tactics used to drive fear, intimidation, and violence.

Ronald Moten and his anti-violence group in late 2007  Washington, DC, area tried to break the ice. He mentioned that, sometimes, prosecutors blamed witness intimidation for their failures to win conviction in homicide cases. One famous rapper Cam’ron, as Moten noted, was interviewed on “60 Minutes” about why he refused to coöperate with police after shots were fired in Washington during a botched car-jacking in 2005.

victimIn other cases especially, young school boys and girls were killed because people thought that they had cooperated with the police. In addition, several cases were not brought to the courts out of the witnesses’ fear of being killed. He asked the question, if someone shot your mother during a drive-by, would you have a problem with it. Since that time and as troubling as it seemed, I never saw another “Snitched” tee-shirt and then only when I looked at a YouTube Video, when most of the subjects’ faces were blocked out.

Looking back at the recent crimes in the region including close friends, where their crimes still have not been solved, I began to wonder how this dirty little secret reached the seashore. One of the proud arguments in the Caribbean is that one does not need a GPS to find a lost family. Everyone knows someone. The concept is that it takes an entire community to raise a child. No one knows this more than the Caribbean community, but it seems unusual in these occurrences that silence has become the new normal. Then again, maybe I am not one to talk about these issues because in my home state there are still battles between who is a rat or responsible citizen when trust and history collide.

Recently, we learned that famous civil rights leader, Al Sharpton, who has a popular television show on MSNBC, was once a snitch for the FBI. He later stated that he was not a snitch, but a responsible citizen. Some members of a previous Mafia, and the fear of ongoing criminal elements in the community and his own safety threatened him, he spoke up.

We cannot equate the level of protection he received that a rich country such as the US can afford to some in the Caribbean where crime is still a major problem and the community knows the perpetrators. However, what we can learn, he stood against violence, and spoke up against the “Stop the Snitch” underground campaigns.

During the political era in the 1800s local politicians had a heavy influence in the criminal justice system. As society modernized through the 1960s, which is today community policing, citizens now have a voice, but there are still significant disconnects between police and the communities they serve. It seems as it was the segregation period or when colonialism ruled.

One side claimed that the historical mistrust of law enforcement by citizens when they brought information, especially in the black and other minorities, makes it difficult to trust the authorities for fear of retaliation. Many have also argued that when an incident is reported, far too often they never received any follow-up — another argument blamed on slavery.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead.  Observer.

Updated: 10-2-2014 Mother of 13-year-old Aliesha Brown found dead. Observer.

This is not one of those emancipate yourself from mental slavery issues when someone is gunned down. The region already gained independence, in my humble opinion, still searching for a perfect union. Having information and not coming forward, in spite of the threat of becoming a victim without proper protection. However, it does not amount to an historical document, but simple aiding and abetting, which carries the same penalty as the perpetration of the violence:

Therefore, now let’s get back to why a few of these tee-shirts now look like a badge of honour. I am not sure if it is a fashion statement, or lack of remorse for victims. However, as noted, sometimes law enforcement treatment of citizens often makes it difficult to come forward. On the other side, the community cannot blame law enforcement for countless crimes where rape, abuse, robberies, schoolchildren and business people killed and still missing, and no one has come forward. This was a circumstantial case, and it could have gone the other way without a body.

The island is always proud, and wears colourful gear in solidarity, and it can be a fashion statement of liberation, but when had the “No Snitch” tee-shirts become so vocal. What happened to let’s promote non-violence against women, education, child abuse, and tolerance, or fight AIDS and cancer? I am hoping to buy a few on my next trip. Sure, other countries have their problems, and before this topic is completed, someone will be killed from gun related violence, and one in four women had already been a victim of rape or some sexual violence, but where are they heading, as a society with this mind-set has to be reversed.

Although his body might not be found, someone lost an uncle, a father, a son. I hope you ask yourself the same question, what if people who may be buried in your backyard, at sea, fed to alligators or burned and buried, were your family members.

If society does not change this new-found fashion statement, how much have they evolved from the early century, where vigilante justice ruled the day, such as the Wild West, and where politicians, the well-connected, rich and, yes, law enforcement decide the value of one’s life. Is that where we want to go in preparation as the next generation grapples with economic stagnation?

Commentary: Celebrity and criminal justice: A test of the Jamaican criminal justice system

Commentary: Celebrity and criminal justice: A test of the Jamaican criminal justice system

Published on April 2, 2014: By Derrick Miller

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Carib-Photo

The anticipated verdict was more about the Jamaican justice system, and how they would handle the last disposition, including the far-reaching effect over the Caribbean in general on celebrity justice, victims, and what statement it would send to the next generation, where trust is often ranked low as it relates to the criminal justice system.The trial was bigger than the prosecutors, defense counsel, witnesses, law enforcement and how they gathered and preserved evidence or the lack of communication, and proper rules.

It bought back memories of the O.J. Simpson case where he was found not guilty on a double murder charge. The trial put criminal justice in focus. It was a combination of how law enforcement conducted themselves, money, celebrity, and class.

Although (Vybz Kartel case did not receive the same worldwide notoriety such as the O.J. Simpson case in 1995. Several in the Caribbean watched this case closely about how justice would be served. Quietly, to many, this public case brought back memories of earlier ones in which earlier politicians, the rich and powerful people in the region often walk away free, even when the evidence points more than likely that a crime has occurred.

This is not to say that all rich, famous, and powerful defendants were guilty in all earlier cases. However, as many Jamaicans waited in anticipation of the verdict, the alert for civil disobedience and vigilante justice was high. However, the Jamaica judiciary system rose to the challenge and maintained order after the verdict. What was even impressive, many became educated with the jury system, and how the overall the court process works for the first and the media played an important role.

Often in regions where poor economic conditions still have a strong hold, justice is often seen through the eyes of one’s economic status, and notoriety. In fact, as much as we would like to see a balanced system, often these trial outcomes mirror several other countries based on one’s race, sex, creed, and colour. The mandated strategies to combat crime, and public safety should not create a generation of hopelessness. It should make sure that when penal codes are violated, the rule of law as written in the “said constitution” remain intact.

Jamaica Slum Standoff

AP

Rule of law, public service, and safety are extremely important, whether in a democratic or totalitarian system of government. Promoting central control is responsive government. This concept ensures that the right people are being selected, and the departments are staffed properly to keep up integrity, and correspondingly balance the public safety mission.

Today, a majority of us still look at the criminal justice system as “justice for the right price.” This is true especially when many people are being incarcerated not because of overwhelming evidence, or simple probable cause is found beyond a reasonable doubt. It is simply because they could not afford the defence needed to poke holes in government cases, and the ones who are sworn to uphold the law are being bought off from behind the bench.

The idea of celebrity justice is almost like policing and its evolution what I consider moving from the boardroom into the public space. Criminal justice throughout the Caribbean region has evolved such as the police force that was first developed within the context of maintaining a class system that protected private property in the early 18th century in Great Britain and now has become a decentralized system globally.

There is no doubt this verdict will be debated for months to come, and somewhat opens a new frontier about how this process really works. Debating the rule of law is nothing new. When other nations adopted the British common law, they also went through a period of amendment after it had been tested in the court of law.

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Old England

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Old England

Baristers U.K.

Baristers U.K.

When colonial British powers stretched throughout the Caribbean region, it not only brought slaves, but a criminal justice system that set the foundation how government protects its people and implements justice. Often, as history has shown us, only a few have benefited between haves vs. have-nots. However, this verdict, regardless of one’s position, should offer some hope.

Many in the island perhaps never understood how the judicial system works, and the responsibility that comes with being selected even as a juror. Now that the verdict is in, the region must begin to educate itself, from the primary schools to colleges on how the process works and expectation of a fair and balanced justice system and regardless of the defence one can afford.

The verdict has tested the Jamaican judicial system, law enforcement rules and what role entertainers play in the system, and if justice can be bought. This verdict is more than just one man, and the impact will have a lasting effect. On the other hand, if the government does not use this opportunity to send a message, very soon key departments will no longer be capable of functioning to their fullest capacity as required to keep up public safety and a fair and balanced system.

What is sad from this verdict, despite a modernized process, it appears when a crime has been solved in the region, several departments stay on trial afterwards, such as the Vybz Kartel’s conviction.

The last analysis is that Vybz Kartel’s new jail number will not make a difference on the Jamaican stock exchange, or how many more prisons will be needed or an improvement to the economic condition. On the other hand, if this criminal trend continues, soon Jamaica and other areas will have to build more prisons as one of the untold stories in the justice system and especially where more prisons are being built and privately owned. They often need clients/customers to keep their operations going. As a result, the lives of the less fortunate among us seem to have diminished to debits and credits on a balance sheet or a ticker symbol trading in the stock markets.

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D.M.

The concept that entertainers were immune from the criminal justice system in Jamaica has now been proven incorrect. However, it seems the blame game continues about what went wrong, and what could have been done differently? Training is now critical and, if the body of government that plays a vital role in upholding the law refuses to investigate gaps from preserving of evidence, and ensuring that officers can conduct comprehensive investigations from the emergency system to tracking criminals, to redefining agility and structural deficiencies, then public trust will still continue to decline.

Blame Art

Credit: Blame Art: “So often people say, “There’s plenty of blame to go around!”

We have to be careful not to blame everyone immediately if the outcome was not favourable to expectation. Dedicated employees might have made some mistakes in the process, but what has taken place after the verdict is that law enforcement seems to have become the focus of the debates. Going forward, the government needs to set up a commission to look at these issues to see if under staffing and proper training in those vital areas need to be addressed immediately.

How do we get there? The system should meet an independent commission, which will be far from coerced-subjectivity and politics, to check any lapse in compliance that has led to overall deficits across the agency that necessitates action. It is important that they work together and communicate about the overall agency process and make sure continued security is adhered to and that accessibility to sensitive information is restricted to authorized users only.

Checks and balances are always needed, and although it can slow the process from hiring to implementation of human resources functions; however, urgent action is needed to discuss the dedicated staff concerns and going forward give some level of oversight both internal and external.

I had never heard of him before this trial. However, I realize that he has a huge following, and some might not agree with the outcome, and that is fine and democratic in any society. We cannot force anyone about who to love. On the other side, imagine the impact he could have had mobilizing the next generation on to better things. I am still optimistic that this time justice was in the open, and not taken up in the hands of a few through retaliation.

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