Features — 03 August 2019
Domestic violence rooted in childhood development

There is a trend of violence that permeates our society. It stems from what takes place in the life of our children as part of their early childhood influence and development. As adults we are quick to make pronouncements against others, children and adult, who commit some anti-social act, usually crime, without stepping back to analyse what is the root of said behaviour.

If only I could let readers and society on a whole realize that the issues we see our adults manifesting are just the product of their childhood development experience. So if children grew up neglected and abused, very few will rise beyond such a life and not likewise be abusive. But often when I say this, some are quick to say that they grew up poor and never turned out bad … but they miss that I did not say “poverty” was the factor. Poverty just adds to the deeper issue of failure of parents or adults in ensuring that children are raised in a nurturing and safe environment. Even non-poor children are prone to crimes and violence and abuse. They may be involved in white-collar crime or even get their issues of domestic violence swept under the rug, but they are nonetheless as violent and prone to violent and abusive behaviour.

However, back to the issue of when our “criminals” develop their propensity for violence and abuse! As I was saying … a child learns what he/she sees, hears, experiences and a child is a creature that can be moulded and groomed. Therefore, if children see and hear music videos that glorify gun-outing and disrespect for women, or violence and lewd behaviour, etc., do you really expect them to manifest otherwise? Or if they are deprived of basic needs and nurturing and must find how to fend themselves, look out: they will do whatever it takes to survive, and that may eventually include stealing, lying, robbing, killing and the whole gamut.

Therefore, the growing crisis of domestic violence we now are forced to face, is just another manifestation of the reality that our boys see from a young age and they learn from a young age that they are to exert dominance and control over the fairer sex. Likewise, from childhood our girls are groomed into gender roles which equate their identity and validation or even existence with having a man and children and living a life of subservience to men.

It’s sad the extent of violence I see our young women, from courtship, enduring. Even more heart-breaking is the fact that they have come to accept that it is better that they tolerate one abusive, unfaithful partner, especially if they already have children for them, because the next partner will be equally violent. As several have voiced to me, “Miss, it is best I tolerate all this abuse form the father of my children, than to still have to tolerate it with the next man I meet, who is not even the father of my children!” Yeah, jaw-dropping, but a very huge, even educated segment of our female population have come to the conclusion that they must accept one or a variety of the forms of abuse, or domestic violence, which are financial abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse.

From Linda to Geraldine

All of our abusers were themselves abused and have not yet found the strength and courage to break the cycle, so they give in to their weak and primitive and most debased conduct, when they seek to deal with inter-personal relationships through abuse and violence. Some of the abuse is not so obvious, and the ones we quickly react to are the ones of sexual and physical abuse, but those never stand in isolation, and are always accompanied by either psychological, financial and/or emotional abuse!

I don’t think we can easily forget that on 17th February, 2019, the City dealt with the murder-suicide of Hermelinda “Linda” Emmanuel at the hands of her husband, Jason Emmanuel. It was after the news broke that we gradually learnt of the extent of domestic violence she lived with. Of course, those who did not see bruises are in denial that there was domestic abuse, but they fail to comprehend the extent of and the level of control and emotional and psychological abuse she lived with. As those close to her revealed, she was trying to get out of the marriage, but was killed before she could make the physical break in time. But even if she did, he would have eventually tracked her down and killed her, as Rodwell Arzu allegedly has done to Geraldine Flowers.

At the writing of this, Arzu has not been captured and is on the run.  Mostly likely, he is being harboured by someone, and I am sure there are those who will justify his conduct and even make excuses and may even be bold enough to blame the death on the victim herself.

Abused are judged more than the abuser

As I shared on social media, unless you have been in an abusive domestic relationship as a woman, you will never understand the courage, the strength and the mental anguish it takes to walk away. The psychological and physical entrapment of abuse is real. Some women get to move out physically, but the abuser has not yet been evicted out of their head, and so they often still live in fear. Hoping their little acts of peace, compassion or kindness would appease their abuser, they do simple things that sometimes cause them their lives at the end.

1. Let’s not forget how 34-year-old Anita Pineda let down her guard on New Year’s Day 2019 and went to visit a friend in the Kontiki Area, San Ignacio, where her ex-common-law husband was lying in wait and ambushed her. He stabbed her to death!

2. Then there was 33-year-old Roxanne Pop, a mother of three children, who managed to get out of an abusive relationship and fled from Toledo to Belize City. Seeking to not take chances of being alone with him, after being separated for three years, she agreed to meet him in public at Boulevard Plaza, Belize City, but he wasted no time in attacking her viciously, regardless of people around.

3. Then there was recently the horrific domestic abuse of 31-year-old Francisca Casares Duarte, mother of one child, who was killed by her abusive common-law husband with whom she had a very rocky relationship.

 If I continue researching I can recap so many others all over the country. But I know you get my point on that history of women being killed at the hands of their ex-lovers/husbands/common-laws, etc. The point I want to make is to show how the system and society and culture do not help these women.

The recent case of Ronny Roberto Toro Duarte is one more classic example of how bail is given to a man, to give him time and opportunity to finish what he started. He pulled a knife on his wife, and he is out free instead of in detention and receiving therapy to deal with his anger and violence issues. You think his wife will want to even continue with charges against him after this “get out of jail” card?

My view is that even if he got bail I insist that one of the mandatory conditions is for him not to even be in the area nor communicate with her except through professional therapy, of which she can be a part.

Sadly, often he is the sole breadwinner, so he can use financial abuse against her in order to compel her to give up the case. So once the court gives him bail, it is incumbent on the court to ensure that the man is not able to hold the woman at ransom financially. Often women for mere economic survival of themselves and the physical comfort or provision of their children, go back to the very same bad relationship they were seeking to leave.

We need to amend the law to ensure that if the female recants, and no longer wishes to press charges, that the prosecution can proceed without them. This is to deter men from interfering with and/or intimidating these women. The message of the Toro Duarte case is a classic example of why women feel helpless, unsupported. The very system places them still within reach and at the mercy of the very abuser the system is supposed to protect them from.

Women giving up!

I recently have been getting lots of female clients dealing with domestic abuse of all forms. Let me tell you some of the problems they face when they try to get help in trying to leave and move on from an abusive domestic situation: 1. They leave running for their life, but the Family Court tells them they abandoned their home so they cannot get their children; 2. They have no economic means because the abuse includes financial abuse, so they are not given custody of their children since they don’t have money to maintain them. It’s as if they are penalized for helping themselves out of abuse; 3. Police refuse to take a report of the incident, so they are discouraged because both male and female police officers take it as a flippant matter if they were not beaten to a pulp; 4. Too often police only talk to the man as they say “man-to-man” and let the man go without even a slap on the wrist; 5. The Family Court judges almost always refuse to give an ex-parte interim protection order to secure safety of the women; and so to survive, the women go back, and try to navigate keeping the man pleased to the point that some leave, but for years they don’t even get into another relationship, afraid to upset him while he already has another woman, who sadly is likewise being abused but remains equally silent and at times helps the man torment his ex-woman.

Then it gets worse because the women who manage to get out and even secure a protection order find themselves now having to send their children who saw and experienced all the abuse, to visit or stay with the same father because the Family Court judges so order. Yet no counselling is ordered for the man who now uses the children as a means to execute his emotional and psychological abuse on the mother, and the children too!

Our system has failed us, because how can we send the children back to the same abuser, as if we forget that children learn what they see? Sending them to the same abuser with no further intervention, is telling them it’s okay to abuse and there are no consequences.  Often poor kids are so torn by their parents’ conflict that they remain scarred for life. Then we ask how some adults are such abusers?  It’s simple – they learnt it during their childhood developmental years!

Now we have Geraldine Flowers, and if we check the series of things she went through leading up to her death I am sure we will find that we failed her along the way. We will find she tried to move on, but lived in constant fear, yet many judged her, and even failed to see the signs of abuse and do the right things by her.

Mein, I wish I could write so much more about how we can prevent some of these cases and how to help families and how much more trained our Family Court magistrates and personnel workers need to be. It’s these little acts left unchecked that set the stepping stone for the eventual murders of these women!  But often the same people we turn to for help are abusers themselves or are abused, so they accept it as the norm. I want to see a whole cultural shift of how we view domestic violence and the different layers that accompany it! Let’s focus on our children and their childhood development to prevent their adulthood detriment!

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Deshawn Swasey

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