Tuesday, August 22, 2017


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University of the West Indies Anthropologist Herbert Gayle PhD. is again bringing attention to the issue of violence, notably domestic violence. He is of course well known in Belize as the author, along with Belizean Nelma Mortis, of the Gayle Report entitled “Male Social Participation and Violence in Urban Belize,” the exhaustive study he published recently. In the Report he is styled as Anthropologist of Social Violence, and so it is clear that he is considered an expert in this field.   On January 22, 2017 he published a Commentary in the Jamaica Sunday Gleaner which is called “Misconceptions About Domestic Violence.” As soon as I saw the caption my interest was clearly piqued. Upon reading the article I thought that it is imperative to share his ideas, especially since some of his findings have to do with Belize, and in particular the results of his Report on males mostly in the Southside of Belize City.   I will offer the findings of his Commentary in precis form. I believe that these issues are of crucial importance and that everyone involved in the social sector in Belize should be aware of his findings and opinions. Dr. Gayle stated that for the last ten years he has done much training on domestic violence and that he is always amazed at the gap between the legal meaning of domestic violence as used by the Police and the “North-funded” campaign meaning thereof. He said that he asked 100 educated people four true or false questions, with only nineteen of them getting all the answers correct. First, domestic violence and intimate-partner violence always mean the same (False) ; second, women are the primary victims of all forms of domestic violence (False) ; third, women account for about 90% of the victims of intimate partner violence (False) ; four, domestic violence is directly affected by male-versus-male violence (True.)   By this yardstick it is plain that domestic violence has a much broader meaning than intimate partner violence. And Dr. Gayle has posited and found that domestic violence affects boys, girls, elderly, disabled, women and men in that order in Jamaica, Belize and this region. He also has found that in Jamaica and Belize boys are the primary victims of physical abuse and neglect in the home setting. These boys, who have often endured extreme physical abuse in childhood have as they have grown older “unleashed hell on us and on our women.”   Very sadly, Dr. Gayle has also found that boys are more likely to be psychologically scarred by verbal abuse. However, many girls are traded like cattle and quietly enslaved in the homes of relatives, and of course are more likely than boys to be sexually abused and trafficked. Our challenge in the Caribbean, he says, is that children are often considered property. And just as welcome changes are coming in seeing the battering of women as not a private problem, there is the need to publicly protect and defend children in the same way.   Finally, Dr. Gayle feels that Jamaica suffers from adopting any agenda from the North due partly to funding, with “Gender” issues now attracting money. Yet the abuse of children is a root cause of continuing intimate partner violence. He has found that more than half of the men who beat women were abused as children, and that more than half of the women who carry on the abuse of children were also abused during their childhood.   We may of course question the empirical data or findings that Dr. Gayle and others have used in arriving at these conclusions, but it is critical for us in Belize to seriously pause and to consider carefully these matters before addressing how we are going to begin fixing the myriad     social problems which plague us. I do agree with what I believe would be Dr. Gayle's and Ms. Mortis' positions, that is, our solutions to combatting domestic and intimate-partner violence must be based on our own definitions and data and not on the meanings placed on us by international organizations and governments who assist with the funding for social programs.
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