By Annan Boodram
With respect to a recent letter in the Guyana media, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) categorically and emphatically states that there is no ‘ethnic impetus’ for domestic violence. There never has been and anyone familiar with the literature will know that no research, survey, poll or study has ever found ‘ethnic impetus’ for domestic violence.
The letter cited a recent article in the Stabroek News, by Queens, New York City based lawyer and activist, Aminta Khilawan, and then stated “I believe she did not go far enough in capturing the racial elements in cases of domestic violence, suicide and abuse among Guyanese.” The fact is that Aminta’s article focused on the Indo-Caribbean community in New York City, more specifically Queens. So naturally all her references would be located within that focus. She was addressing the problem within the Indo Caribbean community in New York City, not “capturing the racial elements in cases of domestic violence, suicide and abuse among Guyanese”.
In fact, a look at the statistics in the US will reveal that Blacks are most likely to experience domestic abuse, followed by Hispanics, then Whites. Asians (including Indo Americans) are least likely to experience domestic abuse. But then 40% of police officer families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10% of families in the general population. And do note that 77.7% of police officers are whites. As well a content analysis of the US media will reveal that vast majority of domestic abuse cases in the police force have to do with whites.
As well, another letter writer, UWI’s Dr. Kean Gibson, rather shockingly suggests that creation myths and cultural practices that no longer hold sway drive gender based violence in contemporary times.
The fact is that the root causes of domestic violence are the same globally as are the risk factors, although they may be manifested differently in different societies. Domestic abuse is the result of gender inequality and inequitable gender power relations and abusers are fueled by the culture of patriarchy and their desire to assert power and control. In effect “violence is part of a system of coercive controls through which men maintain societal dominance over women” (Anderson 1997: 655).
“Rape and domestic violence, for example, can be seen as the effect of social structures that situate men in a hierarchical relation to women and to each other according to historical forms of social differentiation” (Ingraham 1994: 205)
“Marital power is derived from the amount of resources (e.g., income, education, and communication skills), and when one partner lacks resources, violence is used to maintain and restore a sense of power in the relationship” (Ronfeldt, Kimerling & Arias 1998: 71)
A man in a highly patriarchal society who feels that he cannot prove his masculinity through legitimate means, i.e. being the breadwinner for his family, may attempt to prove his masculinity through violence. In his 1971 study, Goode “argued that individuals lacking other means of power, income or educational status, will be more likely to rely on violence to achieve greater power within a relationship” (Andersone 1997: 656).
Risk factors for gender based violence include low education levels, a history of child maltreatment, exposure to domestic violence against their mothers, harmful use of alcohol, unequal gender norms including attitudes accepting of violence, a sense of entitlement over women, abuse during childhood, attitudes accepting violence, male privilege, women’s subordinate status, alcohol and drug use, unemployment and poverty, weak community sanctions against violence, stress and depression, dysfunctional relationships and emotional dependence and insecurity.
The latest figures (2018) for global rates of domestic violence lists the following top fifteen nations: Namibia, Guinea, Gabon, Zimbabwe, Liberia Congo, Cameroon, Uganda, Rawanda, Haiti, Tanzania, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh Ghana. These are followed (in no specific order) by Chad, Afghanistan, Sudan, Guatemala, Mali, Somalia, India, Pakistan Iraq, Russia. A look at the ethno-differentiation among these nations will clearly debunk any assertion about ‘ethnic impetus’ for domestic abuse.
It would seem then that if one group in a society does indicate a higher prevalence of DV, then that group would obviously be characterized to a greater extent by the root causes and risk factors, none of which have anything to do with ethnic impetus or ’racial elements’. In fact, currently in Guyana, the group that has the highest rate of domestic abuse is the Amerindians for many and varied reasons including the rupturing of their cultural bedrock and traditional way of life resulting in an array of risk factors that did not previously exist as well as the creation of a deepening gender inequity.
The Caribbean Voice urges those who want to write about issues like domestic violence to please get the facts as the only way that these issues can be addressed is through evidence based prevention measures.
Thus perpetrating myths, misinformation and baseless opinions not only make harder the work of prevention groups but also compounds the entire issue.
PS: Catch our Internet radio and FB live program The Mind Body Connection every Monday on Island Zone Radio from 8 to 10 PM with hosts Shanaz Hussain and Hiram Rampersaud. Log on to The Caribbean Voice Media page on FB for videos of all programs. Also The Caribbean Voice can help you access help for any and all mental health issues. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 646-461-0574 (Annan), 917-767-2248 (Hiram), 631805-6605 (Shanaz), 646-202-3971 (Neela) or 516-286-8952 (Dr. Rodney). In Guyana call Bibi at 621-6111 and in T&T call Keisha at 686-3623. Also check out our website at www.caribvoice.org for more information.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.