One Caribbean Rising!

The Power of Three Women Rising Through Full Surrender Regardless Of the Ambiguity Of Our Journey

Written by Velika Lawrence

I received an email my friend’s mom, Karen Ayee (whom I did not know) in the earlier part of 2012 asking if I would consider coming to Jamaica to help her act in response to an article written by a doctor on how our babies have been suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases due to incest in the Caribbean (Jamaica Specially).

As a survivor of molestation and contracting an STD from that encounter, a counsellor, and a young woman passionate about the effects of healthy human interaction, I felt compelled to drop everything in my island of St. Lucia to meet this almost stranger. I felt moved by her call to action.

Karen had just read my Loverly Sheridan Interview and felt that based on the work my partner, Souyenne (Sou) and I were doing with PROSAF that I would be an asset to have on her team.  I felt honoured that she chose me. So I explained to Sou and my family that I was going to go meet this lady from a group called Ennufff in Jamaica. She had offered to support the financing of the trip if I was willing to come and work with her and share my heart, knowledge and skill to help her create her idea of “sisters in the Caribbean Uprising from abuse”. I was moved and made arrangements straight away!

The journey from St. Lucia to Jamaica was intense. I had recently gone through a huge physical and emotional transition and I had all kinds of mixed feelings on the plane. I felt excited to face the unknown and get to know Karen and the people she wanted us to help but guilty because I felt so low inside at the time. I asked myself,” how are you going to go empower people yet you feel so horrible about yourself Velika?” I wrote in my journal and cried and by the time I landed in JA I had convinced myself to allow this trip to change me.

I got off the plane and said that as soon as met her I would ask Karen to recommend someone to cut my hair for me. I wanted to start over and I wanted to start in JA. I was going to use this trip as my own version of EAT PRAY LOVE for the sake of myself, Karen, and the other survivors I was about to come into contact with. My life had taught me that the journey can be excruciatingly painful but it also taught me that real understanding, joyful patience and true love for self and human nature were key to the healing work we intend to do together- strangers in the physical but kindred companions as survivors and women, Karen and I began to unfold:)!

In the near two weeks I spent in Jamaica with Karen and her team (business partner- Damali, friends, reporters, musicians, artists, survivors etc.) we drafted a framework for what we named US-RISING. Us-Rising was an idea, a vision in small action, mobilization of reporters and all creative thinkers in the Caribbean to unite under an umbrella to empower and go back for the little boy and girl within all of us who have suffered trauma. We began to film and record music and network with other regional artists to develop what we felt would be a necessary instrument for change. We made great headway and then it was over for JA. However, we kept in-touch frequently, and kept linkages, collaborations and networks live over the seas between PROSAF and ENNUFFF and eventually came to this point in 2014 where we are all working together on the international front for the first ever Caribbean Rising with support of our new sister Dianne from CADVA.

Eat Pray Love Jamaica

Eat Pray Love Jamaica

In the words of my dear brother, teacher and friend Lambert Soomer-James- “The sky is not the limit my darling…the sky is infinite” so off we go Karen- The Phoenix of Air, Velika The Phoenix of Water (inside joke), and all the lovely risers we meet on this journey! ONE CARIBBEAN RISING!

Culture and Resources: Domestic Violence in the Caribbean

Violence is not our culture. Such a profound statement of truth.

Violence is not our culture. Such a profound statement of truth.

We can’t ignore the complexity of domestic violence. There’s no easy fix. Cultural attitudes and the lack of resources are two related issues that need careful and urgent attention. Ennufff is committed to illuminating both issues. In an upcoming show we’ll talk about the lack of resources in the Caribbean – far too many of our countries have far too few shelters, etc… To prepare for the show, I began researching and came across an important report, Domestic Violence in the Caribbean 2012 and article, Legal Reform is no Silver Bullet. Both have been used to provide the cultural attitudes and data I’ve included below:

Cultural Attitudes in the Caribbean re DV

  • In the context of the Caribbean, violence has traditionally been viewed as a “normal part of the relationship dynamic.” (Dr. Peter Weller)
  • In the Caribbean, some cultures believe that most women enjoy physical violence and regard it as expression of male macho.If they don’t display it may be perceived as not caring/not being interested.
  • In the Developing World, it is typically believed and accepted that DV must be kept inside the home (it is private).
  • Research has highlighted how legal reforms have been hindered by poor enforcement, under-resourcing and a failure to address core causes of violence against women.

Data from the report, Domestic Violence in the Caribbean 2012

On average, One third of Caribbean women experience domestic violence (Government of Grenada, 2011).

Suriname

  • 67% of women have experienced violence in a cohabiting relationship
  • 1 domestic violence shelter opened in 2010
  • Counseling center for DV victims in two districts
  • Held awareness raising conference in 2011

Haiti

  • 29% of women had experienced some form of intimate partner violence in the past 12 months, with 13% having experienced at least two different forms of violence
  • Sexual and partner violence have increased since the earthquake
  • Haiti doesn’t have a specific legal provision addressing domestic violence
  • It is estimated that 8 in 10 women have been victims of domestic abuse (half of these were husbands or intimate partners)
  • Nearly ⅓ of Haitian women believe that wife beating is justified under certain circumstances

Jamaica

  • Domestic Violence accounts for half of the violent deaths of women in Jamaica (Hoffman, 2002)
  • The numbers of women and children who die due to DV continues to rise each year (sometimes doubling) yet few organizations and institutions have developed effective methods to addressing this violence. Even fewer have developed programs to help the perpetrators of this violence.

Organizations & Sites to Look At

Thoughts on Domestic Violence: A Personal Perspective

There is no excuse for Domestic Violence

As a result of discussions with my sister and reading about domestic violence, I have noticed that a commonly recurring theme is, as one of my friends has put it “Hurt people, hurt people”, and although it is easier for one to understand that the abused person is a “victim”, it seems that the notion that the abuser is/was also a “victim” is not readily appreciated.

I have further noticed that victimization is mainly viewed from a couple of perspectives, one of which points the finger of blame at the abused person, who may be a battered wife, a woman who was raped, a person of color, or one who is economically disadvantaged. The other perspective is that men are by and large responsible for violence, whether they are soldiers on the battlefield, politicians in government, or husbands/boyfriends in domestic violence.

While it is easy to lay blame and point the finger, which is not always an unreasonable or unfair thing to do, I believe that the movement that is dedicated to resolving domestic violence and the attendant suffering can only be successful when it finds a way to explain in plain language the complex relationship between the diverse and complementary roles of the abuser and abused when violence occurs. In other words, the abused, abuser, and I daresay the bystander, must come to understand the how, when, where, and why of domestic violence, in order that both abused and abuser can be healed, and the bystander can know how to respond and contribute positively toward resolving the problem.

It is by no means an easy task to resolve domestic violence, and it becomes more difficult when those who truly wish to positively contribute to the war against it, make honest efforts to understand the underlying causes, but are accused of “blaming the victim”. A common example of this is where one might question whether the behaviour of the abused either caused or contributed to the violent event, and for the person who is not merely a blogger but who hides behind his or her computer and makes shallow and uninformed comments, the answers to such questions are important as they can help to formulate ways to assist abused people to avoid violent situations.

Throughout my career as an insurance adjuster, I have seen people from various strata of society at their worst, best, and in between, and it is evident that a culture of victimization has developed over the years. That culture has resulted in people’s unwillingness to assume responsibility for their own actions. In fact, despite choices they have consciously made, people readily blame others when they suffer injury. Alcoholics often blame their great-grandfathers who were alcoholics, chronic smokers blame the tobacco company for their lung cancer, and the john blames the prostitute for their STD. In several fairly recent court cases the so called “victims” were awarded significant financial damages, and this tends to encourage the victimization culture.

As well, movements that have arisen due to the culture of victimization, appear on the surface to be strong advocates, and are quite vocal in their advocacy for the “victim”. However, in reality, they often fail to address the pain and injury in practical ways, and it is apparent that they have no real desire to eradicate the underlying problems, for in doing so their movements and the financial benefits derived by the top organizers would cease to exist.

I hold the view that human beings are neither born violent nor as victims; therefore victimization must have developed within the context of relationships and a certain culture, and while it is wrong to “blame the victim”, I believe that empowerment is one, if not the most effective, of the weapons that can be used in the war against domestic violence.

When I was a boy, I was victimized, but with the help of people who loved, cared, and encouraged me, I resolved that I would not be a “victim” and although it took many years (in fact, I am still a work in progress) I have come to know that one can become empowered by educating oneself and seeking help in the right places. It is of utmost importance to understand the dynamics of violence and the role that one assumes therein.

Given my unequivocal support of war against domestic violence (it strikes me that “war”, which connotes “violence”, must be waged in the “fight” against domestic “violence”) I truly believe that rather than feeding the culture of victimization and playing the blame-game, educating the players (abused, abuser, and bystander) about the issues will provide the empowerment needed to end it. Is it an easy war? No. However, if we really believe in the proposition that all humans are born equal, have a right of personal security, that they have the freedom to choose, and that they have an inalienable right to pursue happiness, that war is one that right thinking persons are obliged to wage? Yet, the war will not be waged by physical violence, but by education and meaningful support of the players.

Ennufff is committed to facilitating an ongoing dialogue (where all sides and views are represented) to achieve incremental and lasting change particularly around the issues of sexual and domestic violence. We welcome guests on the show and invite each of them to submit a written piece that is representative of their perspective. This piece was written by today’s male guest. We thank him for sharing so candidly.

Domestic Violence Endures

Karen attended this DV awareness rally in NYC.

Karen attended this DV awareness rally in NYC.

When those you love endure Domestic Violence (DV) every fiber in your being just wants it to stop. At least that has been my experience. I have observed close friends in abusive relationships – in some cases, constantly beaten, in other cases, sporadically. It always seemed easier to explain away the “one off incidents” [at least until it happened again 6 months later]. It has never been easy, however, to explain away the damage done and the scars left – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – particularly when children are exposed to this violence.

Approximately 275 million (that’s right MILLION) children around the globe have witnessed Domestic Violence in their homes (UNICEF, Behind Closed Doors, 2012). This is a frightening yet telling number that makes clear: When children witness violence in their homes they are deeply effected. The effects show up as behavior change (irritability, emotional distress, trouble with school work, and lack of focus) and later in life shows up in substance abuse, early pregnancies, and criminal behavior. Finally, this exposure makes it far more likely that violence will resurface in their lives (as future abuser or abused).

According to UNICEF’s Behind Closed Doors report, “Violence in the home is one of the most pervasive human rights challenges of our time. It remains a largely hidden problem that few countries, communities or families openly confront. Violence in the home is not limited by geography, ethnicity, or status; it is a global phenomenon. Several studies also reveal that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be affected by violence as adults – either as victims or perpetrators.”

The report refers to the children in violent homes as “forgotten victims.” To end Domestic Violence we must remember, acknowledge, and support the children who see this violence and carry it with them (as future abuser and/or abused) for many years to come.

Quick Facts & Stats

  • Though men are sometimes victims of DV, women are the vast majority of the time
  • 1 in 3 women will be victims of DV
  • 1 in 4 while pregnant
  • 275 million children have witnessed violence in their homes globally

Additionally, according to the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, boys who grow up with abuse are:

  • Four times more likely to abuse in a dating relationship
  • Twenty-five times more likely to commit rape as an adult
  • Six times more likely to commit suicide
  • One thousand times more likely to commit violent acts against their own children.

If we are to end Domestic Violence then we must begin to provide safe homes for our children. Homes where their security and peace of mind are paramount. Children must be taught that Domestic Violence is wrong and shown that there is never a reason (no matter the circumstance) to beat another human being – much less someone you claim to love. All that said, I understand creating a safe space for children is easier said than done. Because achieving this reality means the adults will need to seek help. The adults (both abuser and abused) will need to confront the violence through truth, therapy, introspection, hard work, and other steps to achieve lasting change. If the adults won’t take these steps for themselves, I’m hoping they will do so for their children.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

First let me start by saying, when domestic violence (DV) occurs, both parties are ‘victims of abuse’.

We seem to be desensitized to the root of sexual and domestic violence in our society. The victims and perpetrators wear many masks colored in fashionable pretense, silence, and pain. But this is a very serious threat in our society, which leaves far too many victims dead and families to suffer.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It is also the season of another change, fall. This gives us another opportunity to acknowledge self, to review and renew changes we struggle with from our past, and to grow. Most victims of DV are products of violence. Many of them came from a home of violence, which they witnessed or experienced. Too many shelter behind a mask of silence to hide their pain and shame. They are usually too ashamed to discuss the violence that wreaked havoc in their lives, leaving them hopeless and without any help so they stay silent and violent.

One of the popular questions victims of DV ask themselves is, ‘why me’? (feeling hopeless and helpless).

There is a certain level of worthlessness and hopelessness that DV victims face. This despair is the beginning or continuation of good people doing bad things. Based on my observations and perspective while ‘good people do bad things’ by contrast ‘bad things happen to good people’. Where do the victims both draw their positions, from being the abused or the abuser? The two sides of the coin show both are suffering victims acting out their chosen position. When victims of DV are having crisis moments, it is not likely they will reach out for help – it could be because of shame or a number of other unreasonable reasons.

Because of the many masks worn in our society, people rarely help each other effectively. Unfortunately people are preoccupied with their own issues so they are insensitive to other victims, they are more interested in gossip than discussion. It seems like most don’t care to help. It is sad, but we must try to change this.

How do we change the process of known or unknown abuse – physical and emotional – for both the victim and perpetrator [the two sides of the coin]? Physical abuse attacks the human’s body and emotions and emotional abuse adds to the breakdown of an individual being leaving them physically and psychologically helpless. The two go hand in hand. Abuse is a violation that leaves victims unable to stand up for themselves, identifying with weakness when they are weakened, and feeling out of control of the situation or self. What happens to the child, then, who witnesses abuse [statistically, they often become the abuser or the abused]?

Witnessing any form of violence is traumatic and harming but much more harming if one develops anger from childhood experiences. Therefore, it should not be surprising that when one recognizes the impact of one’s own experience (i.e., how we are shaped) one responds or acts from that experience. That is very important to understand on both sides.

Most perpetrators are overbearing and controlling of their victims. Children in abusive households often suffer from these very things at the hands of their abusers (parents, extended family, etc…) and they usually take what they see into their own adult life, destroying families repeatedly for generations. Some repeat this behavior while others avoid this type of behavior altogether. Unfortunately, most fall victim to repeating the abusive behavior because of these unaddressed anger and childhood issues. With these issues unresolved, too many do not know how to break the cycle or have the support or tools for correction. Abuse is repeated in generations though many disregard this perspective or feel empowered to change it, but I disagree. It was a life shown and modeled, not given, so you have the choice to shape your own life. I share with others that we do not have to fester in these kinds of pain, or shame, we can grow and elevate from them.

Post trauma triggers and effects are real, but if we learn to be patient and trust the process we will see everything has a process in time to heal and change.

The winter months are ahead of us – especially for those living in colder climates – and can be a gray period of time for those who suffer from triggers in the dark moments in life. Be mindful of self in those times. Be aware each time violent anger comes up. Look where it is coming from and be in control of it. You will see it.

Healing starts with recognition, addressing issues for change, and seeking a better life. When we are able to see both aspects – the introspect and retrospect of self and others – the journey of healing has begun. You can now make a conscious decision to fight or flight. It may be difficult at times because of the limited resources for long term care, but seek the help. It is out there. Though the system may be more interested in criminalizing instead of rehabilitating, still seek your help.

On the quest of change we must be mindful of our actions. There is a saying about criticism: ‘The finger points ‘look there’ not ‘look here’. For me, there are always two sides to a situation and I believe there are no bad persons, instead, people choose to do bad things.

Oftentimes we see victims only and the abusers as the monster, but both are in deep anger and pain not articulated consciously enough to truly understand both their positions. Love is always present in all of us but the good is in conflict with and blindsided by anger, power struggle, and violence. All these are the key factors behind the painful masks of DV.

Hate overpowers care, but we can change that. Afterall, we are all good human beings who are violated or violate based on where we stand or our circumstances. Buju Banton, a Jamaican Reggae icon who is now incarcerated, said it well, “circumstances make me who I am, was I born a violent man…” It all comes from the deeper understanding of good people do bad things, while bad things happen to good people. It is a psychological problem that affects both men and women who are victims. Usually, though, because men are more physical in their actions, women appear to be the victims more and men the perpetrators. Lets act on caring for each other, by beginning to understand our circumstances and seeking help, start with ‘stop pointing ‘there’ and looking ‘here’. It starts with the I, you for the change.

Written by Karen AyeeKaren Ayee