Commentary: Domestic Violence and Homophobia: A call for more purple over the blue Caribbean shores:`

By R. D. Miller

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 plight, struggles, and those who have been lost to crime from decades of irrational hatred and fear from heterosexual groups or HIV/AIDS have 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.

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.

These 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 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, but it also 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 an LGBT pride event.

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 homophobia; I will not force you to read yet another. 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.

If it feels wrong, it is wrong!

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 allows coercing and 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’s publishing scars from the 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.

Assessment:

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.

Insufficient data: 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 in the U.S. 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

looking in:

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.

Commentary: Goodbye, going once, twice, sold

By D.R. Miller

The New Coast: Recently a solemn promise was broken. A few of us halted all travel plans until we were convinced that the government had
the chikungunya virus under control. However, breast cancer took a dear family officer after 30-plus years in public service. 

Despite the earlier concerns, many of us went. Traveling the coastline, with the ocean dangerously few feet from the vehicle, while staring at beautiful homes tucked in hillsides, the temptation to pullover for a quick
swim, or capture the sunset, and walk barefoot from the cold left behind emerged.

However, a once simple pastime and custom for natives from a hot sunny day or a weekend with families to prime free beach areas to relax, is apparently becoming very difficult and just an idea.

The high criminal elements that are sometimes a deterrent has now been taken over by: segregation, isolation and the fight equality now seems more dangerous.

Even vacant lots that should have been designated as historic land and preserved are either leased or bought by foreign private investors.

Home prices are extremely high and few older structures that could use an upgrade, owned by the less fortunate people passed on from their ancestors, and dating back to British rule, many found themselves restricted to move freely.

As the mega-building rises, green land and trees are diminishing, thus contributing to the record high temperatures, while ignoring the environmental impact.

Where will be the new location?

The gentrification in disguise is a global trend, creating social stratification sold as transformation. Sure, a few job are created by new stores, and hotels.  However, some working conditions often look like a previous century, working in hazardous conditions for extremely low wages, unable to buy a small home in the communities they are serving.

What is the trade-off, and where are the unions to balance labor and human rights? The region is now dominated with massive imports. Locally grown products have dwindled to small corners like news racks covered with international news clips while local customs and identity get lost.

Locals at cleaning fish on the sea coast
Jamaica yellow yam
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – Jamaica

Analyzing the region’s plight from the outside is difficult. Who are the investment banks in disguise, as famous faces who claim they are in love with the region while commercialization threatens native culture.

Credit: Mento Quintet by Richard Blackford: Maintaining tradition is important.

Obviously an incredible lack of knowledge or accountability about who are the human piñata lining their pockets. What is troubling, it seems an iPhone, Facebook, and YouTube seem to be more important to some, while the sand is being swept from under their feet.

When Miss Jamaica Kaci Fennell was not selected as the 2015 Miss Universe, many mobilized in the street, online and voiced their displeasure. The same emphasis on these issues as to the plight of their nation — access to where one can live or swim free — is needed.

As many questioned Kaci’s skin colour to represent Jamaica, it only underscored the argument that a few are still stuck in an identity crisis to see even more dire issues.

Crowd gathered to with her beauty contact in Kingston, Jamaica

The quiet marriages while other basked in social media, but how long will these marries last.

Few months ago, I wrote about China’s penetration into the Caribbean markets for anyone who has access to a red carpet. The modernization of technology and infrastructures brought to this region and others should not be an economic long-term sentence for some.

Source: Pool/Getty Images AsiaPac)
Robert Gabriel Mugabe Zimbabwe and Chinese leaders
The Chinese delegation at a meeting with the president of Dominica

Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago , and Chinese President

This new colonization with local hidden alliances has not lifted the poor from poverty. Many still depend on handouts for survival while the middle class struggles. The lack of transparency, accountability and ignorance continue to slow growth.

Protia Simpson-Miller: Jamaica P.M and Chinese leader

One report noted that China uses its financial influence and CARICOM as its umpire to expand. Several projects, from medical centers to stadiums in St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and Jamaica, and others with cheap loans has some positive effects, but who are the real long-term beneficiaries?

McKinley & Company, a global consultant firm that operated in more than 40 countries, once noted that several companies have failed, especially in the energy industry, due to cheap imports from China over the past ten years. To the Chinese credit, education is mandatory.

They have tremendous control over the value of their currency in spite of questionable human rights issues. While the priceless seaports and other infrastructures are being sold, leaders should at least learn some of their business strategies, and even negotiate an energy efficiency deal to cut the dependence on fossil fuel, especially in Jamaica where an average customer pays about 42 cents per kilowatt-hour. Many factories should be mandated to clean up the air, but that will hit the élite who run the country.

Selling Our Souls: While many Africans sold slaves, they did not invent slavery. Today, the selling of native land is a rebirth of such dark period. The Europeans and others turn the plight of others into major businesses. Having few natives at the table today does not make it more acceptable.

In November 1927, Marcus Garvey was deported from the US. He fought for self-governance and despite pushback even from black leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, who once described Garvey as “a little, fat black man; ugly, but with intelligent eyes and a big head.” The region could use him today as an ambassador. Patriotism cannot only be in the music that comes out of the region.

This paradigm shift along these blue waters is troubling.

Sunday, November 17, 2014, opened the world to an issue kept off air when CNN aired Anthony Bourdain’s Part Unknown. To some, it was uncomfortable, but viewers saw that Jamaica is not all about reported violence, marijuana, and a relaxed attitude.

Furthermore, few are willing to sell their souls and local government leaders seem muted. When personal financial gains ruin an entire community, conflict is inevitable. With high unemployment and poverty, and division, the criminal enterprise thrives and hopeless youths become radicalized, not necessarily from religious ideology, but stemming from polarization, isolation and the lack of opportunity.

New Charity Economy: Today, it seems the region has more charity organizations than small businesses to help the youths. However, not all charities are bad. In the US, one in six receives some type of food support and many school students go hungry each day. Philanthropist Jeff Levitetz recently funded several schools in Jamaica’s rural outpost “In Honor of his 96 year old Grandpa Charlie”, working with Coconut Creek’s nonprofit Food for the Poor. The charity aims to build or upgrade 50 schools on the island. Jeff’s grandfather has a personal love and affection for the Jamaican culture.

Jeff Levitetz, president of The Levitetz Family Foundation, proudly stands… (Food for the Poor / Sun-Sentinel )

In addition, US$166 million is pledged to Jamaica to addresses climate change. The irony is that the coastlines are being ripped apart by development, causing severe climate issue. Furthermore, despite millions donated, some charities do not serve the desired purpose, and the lack proper oversight leads to actions where donations are used to further personal needs.

When politics becomes more important than higher education that only a few can afford, it only creates a new generation of ignorance. Throughout local districts, several primary and high schools still lack a good library and other educational resources to properly educate the next generation. Yes! You can continue to blame slavery, and the lack of reparations. The arguments remain valid, and add several economic down slopes since independence to the debate.

Even 200 years ago, education was a necessity. Between 1835-1842, the region had a slave fund shortly after emancipation. While many in the US were denied access to education in that same period, the British government voted 30,000 pounds per annum towards the education of former slaves.

Early education attempt after slavery

The fund ended around 1845, as studies have shown for many of the British West Indies colonies. It played a pivotal part in training teachers, and building schoolhouses. It was called the Negro Educational Fund. As 200 years ago, very little funds came from the West Indian governments.

The once colonial power seemed to have more interest in educating former slaves than many leaders today. The disappearance of good governance to educate its people could learn something from 200 years ago. It seems handouts have become the normal way for survival for some, while the communities need a sustainable long-term foundation. New charities and awards checks are not capitalism.

New Approach: Few economies have rebounded since the 2008 financial economic collapse. The Caribbean still has an economic virus. The unemployment rate, inflation currency devaluation, and crime remain a problem. Despite these issues, the people remain welcoming, but they must not be fooled in a misguided perception that the few millionaires who own these shores are totally in love with the island’s relaxed vibes, food, and people.

Love does not hurt others.

When Ian Fleming (and James Bond) fell in love with Jamaica in the late 1950s, conflicts were not about access to one’s own land. The few who have the media are skilled at making noticeable linguistic shifts, while masking an urgent need to resolve the dangerous ideological faults even within their party. While it looks like capitalism on the coasts and inland; however, if it is one-sided, it defeats capitalism as a driving force to end poverty and inequality.

Today, we are left wondering how young police officers will be able to afford a home in area they will patrol to protect mega properties and address the untold stories, where hard drugs and young girls who struggle to find employment become nightclub dancers for a few dollars, controlled by pimps who force them into prostitution, sexually abused and exploited. They are not beach beauties that stroll the sand, they are victims that are often overlooked throughout the region.

Modernization is important; however, it should not take a nation back centuries, where only the rich and famous get to rewrite.

As Burning Spear, Jamaicam reggae Super Star once said in a song, “My island don’t sell out.”

Commentary: A new look at violence against women

By D.R. Miller

Here are several definitions of domestic violence. Here is the simplest one: “If it feels wrong, it is.”

One legal definition of domestic violence: It consists of acts committed in the context of an adult intimate relationship. It is a continuance of aggressive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological attacks, that one intimate partner does to another

Since the 1980, many policies have been amended and have given women constitutional rights to safety and equally protection, but the struggle continues. One of the problems is that it is often seen and described as the tolerant cultural traits and a taboo, where guilt and shame makes it difficult for victims to come forward.

What is the color of domestic violence? Often the media only cover domestic violence when a rich and famous person is abused, arrested or killed. What has happened to poor individuals’ cases? Domestic violence seems to be green. Today, thanks to cameras, tapes are bringing all faces of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence from behind closed doors.

September 8, 2014, reminded us that domestic violence is still a cancer when the Ray Rice, a National Football League (NFL) player, video came out. We saw his fiancée knocked out unconscious in an elevator and being dragged out like a piece of luggage.

Within hours, the OJ Simpson 1995 double murder case in which he was acquitted emerged on almost every news lead-in. This was not co-incidental; OJ’s name generates ratings and a platform that often divides. Most importantly, his case has created more awareness calls to domestic violence centers since.

Despite the media’s recent highlight on almost every black NFL player, there are other Ray Rices still in many games, in schools, mosques, synagogues, churches, and co-workers in disguise. I am not minimizing his behavior. He should be punished both in the court of law and in his career.

Violence should not be broadcast to further polarize a society. Should we now keep scorecards of offenders to balance the portrayal of certain groups? Should we go to the archives and pull up Scott Peterson, who also killed his seven-and-a-half months pregnant wife with her only child when OJ’s name is mentioned?

Four years earlier, Pittsburgh Stealers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was accused of three rape charges. The district attorney later dropped the charges.

It was reported that alcohol played a role. Ray Rice also stated that he was intoxicated. Furthermore, can society add South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius, the disabled track star who killed his girlfriend?

For victims, an assault is simply that. It is not them vs us. This divide does not give hope and needs to be debunked.

The Reality: Violence against women is not a new paradigm shift. I am afraid many experts and pundits will move-on soon, and so does domestic violence as it returns behind closed doors until another funeral.

We all know someone and or saw an abuse and asked ourselves why? “He was a nice person and she seemed fine.” This is simple another subconscious minimization process.

In these relationships the “power and control wheel have been active: (1) male privilege; (2) economic abuse; (3) emotional; (4) isolation; and (5) minimization.”

Today, tackling domestic violence is troubling, as stratification has created a polarized and intolerant society where socio-economic inequality, haves vs have-nots forced domestic violence into political debates. Soon it will be polled for a comprehensive policy to pass Congress and other legislative bodies to protect women.

In addition, giving few people airtime as the good ones does not tell the full story.

Many studies have shown that the homicide and victimization rates for black men and women are higher than the national average. These pundits only offer a temporarily feel-good segment because one mug-shot is not plastered on the screen.

Directly or indirectly, violence is a community problem such as Boko Haram’s  ideology when some believe it is only a Nigerian problem. This ideology is in the Caribbean, the USA, and other countries in disguise.

Domestic violence must taken with a sense of urgency worldwide such as dismantling ISIS, Ebola or any terrorist organization. Although one cannot order a drone strike on an abusive husband, law enforcement, policies and support have to be able to track and dismantle these abusers and give help as needed.

In the 1980s, the US Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization played a pivotal role in a grass-roots movement that rewrote laws and battled cultural resignation about alcohol-related traffic deaths. The same has also taken place with gun-advocates. More groups needs to be formed world wide.

Who are the faces of violence?

Domestic violence affects young, old, blacks, whites, rich, poor, gay, straight, Christians or non-believers. Furthermore, not having black eye should not discount one as a victim.

Many of these women stayed in these abusive relationships for economic survival and their children’s safety. Men also get abused but statistics shows more men abuse women.

The Data: According to the Washington Coalition Against Violence, including other studies, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime

These abusers are members of her own family. One in six women and one in 33 men experienced an attempted rape

The amount of children witnessing violence is over 80 million and nearly one in five teenage girls have been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. It is one of the leading causes of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined

In the US alone, a husband or boyfriend murders more than three women each day and every nine seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten.

This is not only a psychological nightmare for families and friends; the economic toll is extremely high. An estimated $4.1 to $5.8 billion resulted from victims who lose days of work alone, which is about 32,000 full-time jobs.

In 70-80% of these cases, the men psychically abused the woman before the murder. Domestic violence cases comprise of more than half of police response calls, more than robbery, motor vehicle theft, burglary as reported. The long-term medical impact for treatment combined with the stigma is harmful.

In most cases, domestic and sexual violence are not closely occurring at the same time.

Need for universal policies coast to coast: If all crimes become a community health problem, and the no drop clause is implanted, where a victim has no control over the prosecution and it is seen as it is — a criminal act — more can be done immediately.

Why: It was late one Sunday night; I’d just gotten back from a long flight after visiting the region. The telephone rang and a sad voice emerged. The first thought was to say, “How did you gain access to my telephone number?” I later learned a friend of a friend or a friend provided my telephone number.

According to the victim, a criminal complaint had already been filed against her abusive husband. There was minimal sign that physical abuse had taken place, and about her third call for help.

This time a doctor’s report was needed to make an arrest and she had to head back home to wait. The local doctor had to be paid in advance by the victim before such medical exam could be completed for a recommendation for an arrest to take place.

Few years later, I still wonder what if the police department was led by a woman with the resources and a responsive system, how different her life would be today? How many died waiting? Imagine being abused and an arrest hung on a medical assessment where the fees are more important.

Treatment Modality: The law does not have to be mandatory prosecution on all cases, but an immediate intervention. Furthermore, simple relying on only physical evidence makes it less likely one more will be killed, and continue to be victimized.

A swift adjudication process is key, and treat all incidents as a criminal act, and make sure victims are empowered.

Domestic violence is not just a few of weeks of treatment sessions where the offender minimizes and refuses to take responsibility and only shows up because he has been caught. Especially in the poor regions, offenders must be held accountable. Outdated laws needs to be amended to send a clear message from the high school to the work place that this kind of behavior must be met with stiff penalties.

Change an old  male chauvinist ideology where women are defined by how high her heels are and not by their work. Both sides should work together and call out violence before it becomes another Rest in Peace obituary.

Developing and promoting more women into key leadership roles will not cut violence against women overnight, but decisions that affect women will have a seat at the table.

Laws are the first line of defense, and priority must be given to victims. The outdated ideology, “She deserved it”, has to stop, especially in poor communities where the rich and powerful often muzzle the outcome of prosecutions.

If this cycle continues, it only creates a new generation that will marry someone who is either abusive or becomes an abuser themselves.

Refocus: Leaders must invest in young women who are consistently overlooked and treated as second-class citizens. Even when one is qualified, the glass ceiling remains active. As a society, all must move from this first view on the surface.

This mentality is one of a laundry detergent, or a waterfall dripping over rocks as it dissipates to support a synchronized balance or beautiful formation flow or a clean outfit, but has structural weakness and residues. Sadly, domestic violence is a dark secret.