Features — 03 March 2018
And the abuse continues — from political to sexual

As I write I can think about examples of all forms of abuse that have taken place in the last 48 hours.  There has been the blatant abuse of public funds to bribe voters; there has been physical abuse that has involved gun violence; at least three women have contacted me seeking help to get out of abusive relationships, and the report of sexual abuse against yet another child has made headlines.

I will not stop talking about abuse and violence in our society because it is the real day to day reality of so many of us. It has no special social class, colour, or creed, nor does it discriminate based on age, sex, economic or educational background. Many live abuse, crudely in the open and many more live it silently behind closed doors. Some of those doors are entrances to a lavish home or a humble abode, but when closed the abuse is the equalizer. As we accept the culture of violence and abuse in our personal life, it becomes easier to accept it in our community life… and if we want to be brutally honest, at least to ourselves, we at some point have, or are still supporting and condoning, some form of abuse or violence, be it knowingly, unwittingly, directly or even indirectly. Reflect on that!

Political abuse and violence
Those of you who have taken to the streets, social media, or even privately to defend the present state of the political campaigning taking place may not realize that the vile tone and mudslinging is one of the many forms of abuse we inflict on each other and have come to accept. The name-calling and cursing, and indirect insults are abusive and thus fall very much within the realm of the definition of abuse.  Some have even gone as far as issuing threats, participating in confrontations, even physical attacks.   Well, cyberbullying right now is the new order of the day for the political trolls!

The video of attorney OJ Elrington, my colleague at the legal bar, issuing expletives with the big “f” word and his body language and threatening stance over a political sign erected by PUP area representative, and his law colleague, Kareem Musa, very much illustrates that even the most “educated” are comfortable with the abusive nature of politics.  This one example, however, tells you how easily those in authority find it to be abusive, instead of resolving the issue with calmness, respect and dignity. His profession as an attorney, requires decorum, and the training in the legal field teaches us to resolve conflict in a professional manner, yet he exercised absolutely no restraint because he felt emboldened by his stance that his party is in power and the City Council owns the public space (wrong – they are only entrusted to take care of it with our taxes). Then there were those who defended his conduct… and those defending were supposed to be “educated”, “rational” and public leaders! No matter what the conflict in which he was involved was about, the issue for me is not who is right or wrong over the billboard, but how they approached and treated each other when seeking a solution to the conflict!

If readers want to be constructively critical and honest, they will know that a true analysis of the verbal exchange leaves much maturity to be desired. But this is only at the level of the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. There has been abuse of a physical nature as well, as party supporters have been attacked and even political signs have been destroyed. That is how low our political process has been.

Political bribery is legalized financial abuse
But it gets worse in my view when there is also financial abuse… yes, financial abuse is defined as part of our law, and it is when money is used to get a person to comply with what you want them to do; otherwise you do not provide them with money or basic necessities bought with that money.

The financial abuse we are practicing is the bribing of persons to go vote. Under the Representation of People Act, if you really want to give anyone money or items, without those gifts being classified as bribes, the value of the items cannot be more than $20.00; thus the items that were given to voters typically used to be t-shirts. If you genuinely want to help people with food, clothes, basic necessities, do so out of sheer goodwill; however, around election time, there is a targeting of voting populations that is a bold, and outright form of bribery for votes. I cannot identify all who are doing it and I cannot defend one party over the other, but I can speak of the ones who are doing it and publicising it as if it’s no big deal, is the norm, — thus legitimizing it.

Look, if I had not seen it for myself and it had not been posted by Juliet Thimbrel herself, the UDP stalwart and former Senator, I would have said it is pure political scandal that she has been giving out food hampers in Punta Gorda to entice votes for the UDP mayoral candidate and his slate. Imagine, we do not know the source of the money, but we know the source of the political party, outright bribing for votes and boasting about it on social media. This is one reason I really would want us to have campaign financing laws, so that they have to disclose the source of said money and put caps on moneys received from donors!.

And, of course, those who are UDP sympathizers will defend it and say the PUP is bribing too, and maybe they are, but they still have not been brazen enough to post it on Facebook and give it an appearance of legitimacy, because they know too well it is illegal. However, the UDP being in power, has lowered the bar when it comes to legitimizing bribery using public funds and calling it a social program… the Christmas cheers, tacos cheers, pantry program, etc. are just examples of political patronage in return for political support. Those are not designed at teaching a man and woman to fish… they are designed to keep you coming back to beg for a fish!  Fool di talk but fool not listening.

My people, I know both political parties pay for votes, but we the people have come to accept that kind of financial abuse as normal, and many of us stretch out our hands and take the money. That does not make it right. More troubling is the fact that this kind of political abuse and corruption is now being accepted by the masses as the norm. It’s part of our culture of political abuse! It needs to stop but we must collectively denounce it because the truth is they steal our own tax-paying dollars, deny us the best public service, then turn around and bribe us with our own money to keep them in power…. It is wrong and it’s the worst kind of public abuse inflicted on our country and future generations. It is not developmental and it’s designed to keep us dependent! This kind of abuse leads to other ills!

Gun violence
Yes, in the last 48 hours there have been reports of gun violence, a reflection of the culmination of the gravest form of physical abuse we can imagine on our streets. But this in itself is a manifestation of how abused people, are hurt people, and thus find it easy to just hurt others. Just reflect on the fact that no person who feels well-rounded, loved, appreciated, respected, and is a productive contributing member of society, living a happy stable life, will take a gun and go out and fire shots at a passer-by on the streets as they go about their daily lives. That has to be the conduct of an abused and violent person who has no respect for others. In the most recent incidents a minor was grazed by a bullet and at least three adults got injured. However, we know how violently the year started and how many murders we have seen on a weekly basis.

The level of gun violence our children are now exposed to brings a new element of desensitization they are going through in their immediate surroundings. This is further compounded by the fact that in many homes parents look at the daily news with all its violent reports and killings and shootings in the presence of or along with their children, but really parental discretion should be advised. The bombardment of our children with these daily violent crimes and the treating of it as the norm, is placing another level of psychological trauma on children, which has far-reaching effects.

As a parent I refuse to expose my minor child to the daily news… in my personal opinion, it will only rob her of her innocence and childhood. I prefer to talk to her about the issue in a different manner and inform her about the happenings using my words, not the cruel, poignant and direct details contained in the newscast. That is my personal choice, and I do not judge anyone on their choice for their child.   However, I want their minds to be nurtured in such a way as to avoid being exposed to the trauma of violence.  And in my view our news is very violent!

A toddler sexually abused
The news of a seventeen-month-old female child being hospitalized in a coma, some say brain dead (as of the writing of this piece), spread faster than the speed of light today, Thursday, March 1, 2018. Today in the old capital, streets were jammed early morning as children paraded through the streets marking the opening of Child Stimulation Month, which coincides with Women’s Month. The opening of this “special” month, however, was marked for me with the continued reports from women reaching out to tell me about the abuse they are suffering currently or had escaped and then the vilest news of an adult male brutally and sexually assaulting this child.

I have taken on this issue of abuse for some years, but have been consistently writing about it with the hope of getting more awareness and support so we can create support systems to help abused women and children and so that we also realize our role in perpetuating this abuse. Ideally, I would want every new generation to be nurtured differently, free from abuse, so they do not grow up to be the abusers of tomorrow. I opine that the trend and propensity to be an abuser starts from childhood, thus my concern about the level of trauma and abuse and violence a child is exposed to. How we teach them, talk to them and nurture them determines how they learn to handle conflict as they grow. We are failing our children in this regard!!

 Now I can hear murmurs of the male’s abuse, and yes, that is real, but sorry, the adult male needs to take on that platform. I deal with the abuse of male children and children on a whole and especially of women, because the women are key to ending the cycle. I say they are the key, because often, they as mothers, perpetuate the cycle of abuse by venting their frustration at the abuse against them, by in turn abusing their child.

Abuse has always existed in our society… But we are not working to end it, rather we have become conduits of it, when we remain abusive, violent and confrontational verbally and physically in both our private and public life. Let’s curb this disease. Let’s do our little part to end this cycle of abuse and change our culture of violence and abuse!

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Deshawn Swasey

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