Commentary: Domestic Violence and Homophobia: A call for more purple over the blue Caribbean shores:

By R. D. Miller

This month saw many races and runs against domestic violence. In my community, members of the public safety services, treatment providers and advocates came out in purple for a 5k annual run.

This warm beautiful day navigating a busy trail, a gay couple holding hands smiled and nodded in encouragement to finish. Their own plight, struggles, and those who have been lost to crime from decades of irrational hatred and fear from heterosexual groups or HIV/AIDS, has come a long way as society has evolved.

As this winter approaches, fewer footprints tread the trails, the changing leaves will disappear as hibernation sets in, until the next 70-degree weather arrives and the purple re-emerges.

Despite huge strides for equality, more needs to be done, especially in places where it is difficult to wear an extra layer of heavy clothing – even to disguise one’s identity or the scars from abuse – places where 70 degrees can be scorned as a cold day.

Along the beautiful shores of the Caribbean, more purple races and trail walks are needed to help victims escape their trapped abusive relationships, spread awareness, and generate more resources to support change in the ongoing waves of domestic violence and entrenched history of homophobia.

Addressing domestic violence and homophobia as a single category is not a farfetched idea. It is a strategy that recognizes a correlated connective feeling, similar attitudes and struggles. First, it is a mechanism to inform and focus. Second, a way to carry out more intervention to cut both domestic and family violence. Third, it encourages respect for differences.

Wherever you have sexual assault, exploitation, child trafficking, and targeting of people for who they are, these are in a category with domestic violence, and all at times can lead to death. Violence creates a pattern of psychological and economic impact, especially when children are involved. Such traumatic experiences have long-term critical consequences.

The luscious greenery, breathtaking sunsets and blue water symbolize a liberated vacation for many visitors, but outside their villas and hotel rooms, victims are routinely teased, bullied and even killed thanks to ignorance – even by ‘straight’ perpetrators who may have their own struggles with homosexual tendencies, as studies have shown.

Structural and mental deficiencies continue to create a roadblock. This not only limits overall economic growth and opportunities to further highlight these colors without fear, it causes discrimination in employment and encourages polarization.

“All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence regardless of their gender and sexual orientation” – an excerpt from a proclamation by President Obama on May 29, 2015 at a LGBT pride event.

Domestic violence can take place in heterosexual or same-sex relationships anywhere. The victims are abused, and yet forced to stay silent in this epidemic. The economic, social, and moral consequences still linger.

There are plenty of definitions of domestic violence and of homophobia; I will not force you to read yet another. Basically, we are discussing any situation where masculinity and femininity are narrowly defined in a way that discourages objectivity and the rule of law, removes basic rights and renders individuals powerless.

If it feels wrong, it is wrong

These frightening and terrorizing attitudes are not simply confined to the external scars. According to leading scholars, even when disputes are being mediated, families are still at high risk. With limited resources in rural areas, victims remain unprotected even after court decisions and sometimes death still occurs. Harassment through the court system in these male-dominant systems gives an opportunity to coerce an can lead to lower penalties for offenders.

When society begins to discuss making strong statements and supporting groups that help victims reclaim their dignity, encourage legal reform to reduce crime, and educate others in understanding the motivation, then purple will find its true place and the vulnerable will not be lost.

This is not simple morality and life expectancy. A xenophobia pattern still exists in purple (victims). Socio-economic status, race, and cultural identifiers of violence continue to plague poor communities. Victims are intimidated against coming forward and the only confirms the victim’s taboo of the moral consequences.

A poor gay person abused in Africa, or an individual who lives under a bridge in Jamaica, are each as important as Rihanna publishing scars from abuse she received during her domestic troubles. Violence hurts everyone, anywhere.

No one is immune from violence.

Repeated victimization can force a victim to rationalize between love and violence, blaming themselves and thinking he or she can change the other’s violence. Those uninvited visits, being tracked by GPS, is not love, it is simple stalking.

The dark side: Some blame slavery’s dark period and the dehumanization of black women as a factor in how some women are treated today. Despite their accomplishments, a few still believe the place for women is in the kitchen, where they should be pregnant, while homosexuality is a sin and morally wrong.

However, abusing one’s partner over a disagreement, and treating a person as property while preaching that God is love from the pulpit, while dictating who should be loved and how, is not much different from 16-century colonial laws enabling exclusion and imperialism.

Assessment: The cycle of power and control is seldom talked about, yet many scholars have argued that when a woman’s only meal depends on whether the man comes home that evening, this creates a strong incentive to stay in an abusive situation.

The authorities are key to the survival of these victims: Not acting due to the lack of physical scars is common but problematic. The role of emergency services should continue after the call ends and the first responders leave.

The lack of intervention only creates more victims. Aunt Suzie up the road can provide a temporary shelter, but she too hates gays and lesbians because of her parents’ views. She now lives in an abusive relationship and never discusses it because of fear, shame, and more abuse, and how it looks on the family.

Insufficient data: A leading international journal noted that domestic violence accounted for about 19 percent of the total burden of healthcare for women aged 15-44. They use the health care system more than others do, and for several years after, even when the violence has stopped.

Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults each year in the U.S. according to experts

One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.

More than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.

Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at a higher rate.

The World Bank, about 20 years ago, highlighted that in Barbados, about 30 percent of women aged 20 to 45 reported having been battered. In the British Virgin Islands, 29 percent of 330 women surveyed by the Chief Minister’s Office reported physical abuse by partners. In Jamaica, police reported 39 percent of murders committed in 1998 involved domestic disputes. In Trinidad and Tobago, incest reports increased by more than 200 percent in 1998, according to a local coalition on domestic violence.

Today, sexual abuse, domestic violence and requests for restraining orders are much higher, in the thousands. Domestic violence costs people, the state, and businesses about $23 billion based on several advocate studies that quantified pain and suffering costs as well as the costs of services used by victims and the reduction in economic output.

Inside the LGBT community, there are several reports of an increase in murders since 2010. Youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence.

The new monument designed by Anthony Goicolea will honor the LGBT community and victims of the Orlando massacre. (Courtesy of the artist and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Looking in: When media sources politicize domestic violence and homophobia, including conferences on violence open to a selected few, what people hear often confuses loud, mindless, opinions for leadership. These issues cannot be used for political gain when several reports have shown that the region still lacks policies to protect victims in general.

Anti-Homophobia day celebration at the Fondation Serovie in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo by Katie Orlinsky

Today’s violence along the shores is not simply due to poverty alone, but decades of unresolved social issues, where even the offender has been a victim and there are scarce resources for treatment and accountability. Reporting crime should not put victims at higher risk.

See you at the next walk or run, or even standing under a banner for safety for those still only searching for survival, and the soul of their community.

Commentary: Domestic violence awareness: Another missed opportunity

BY R.D. MILLER

  • The timing might not be right, I get it.
  • If not now, when?
  • This is an old story. I get it. However, there are always new victims.
  • They have already been punished, I get that! However, the pain never stops.
  • The victim went back with him. Could it be lack of support and fear?
  • He needs a second chance. That is important and so does others.
  • The network is not the world’s police, rightfully so.
  • There are many other things to talk about, will do.

Missed Opportunity: This year several personal and business resolutions have been missed. No one for sure can predict which story will dominate this year’s headlines. However, if history remains our guide, despite today’s cynicism and, and lack of trust in government and leadership, many communities should be focusing on policies and resources for several women who will become victims this year. This issue affects extended family, neighbors, schools, and friends; the list goes on.

Late November 2014, many tuned into the Soul Train music award on Black Entertainment (BET), and Centric TV. I tuned in to see Kool and the Gang receive a lifetime award for 50 years in the industry and not the glamour, fashion, music critics, and chatter about who came with whom. After the show had ended, the telephone ran.

His appearance and platform brought back memories of Rihanna’s face,” they stated. What if Chris Brown made a statement that said “violence against women is wrong” before his performance; would that have changed anything?”You might not agree for the reasons outlined earlier.

However, this is not about Chris Brown, who assaulted Rhianna few years earlier. It is about millions of young teenagers, especially women who normally tune-in to watch the show.

I get it again, millions of records sold. I get it again, it’s record sales, stupid!

Domestic violence is an epidemic. What is certain, one in five women who perhaps sat and observed these events are a victim or know and/or saw an abused person, raped, coerced into sex, or otherwise during her lifetime. In addition, nearly one in five adolescent girls has been in a relationship where a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup, according to the Washington Coalition against Violence. Even the US Army noted an increase in criminal assault in 2014.

Domestic violence stretches beyond a sound stage, and especially in the Caribbean where silence tends to morph as the laid back atmosphere while case numbers are staggering, gushing up against women faces like the ocean.

The Trinidad Express reported about 11,382 domestic violence cases filed two years earlier. In Jamaica, research has shown over 9,000, and 300 sexual assaults cases reported in the same year. Today, I also ponder what if international soca superstar Machel Montano from Trinidad and Tobago, who received an award at the BET awards and Jamaica’s Tessanne Chin, former winner of the Voice USA, were given a chance highlight more awareness and the potential impact given their massive audience.

Tennasse Chin-Jamaica
Machel Montano-Trinidad & Tobago . .
 
 
 

Responsibility: numerous television networks have been instrumental on much social awareness of importance issues, like AIDS, technology, fashion, voting, marriage equality that transcends across borders, especially, in poverty-stricken and developing countries, and any awareness will deliver a significant impact.

This year more cameras should be utilized to make domestic violence an unconformable topic in these regions where it remains a critical issue. The implication here is not that every award function and performers are responsible for crimes committed against women, nor one should one be forced to place a permanent disclaimer on the television screen about domestic violence at each event. Nevertheless, with success comes responsibility.

It must be handled as a national issue such as the murder rate that is high per-capita in some of the countries in the region. Although it is still an uphill battle, combined with constant images plastered in music videos and other settings that promotes tunnel vision of female beauty.

Nevertheless, more women are using their academic achievements and making a huge difference. They are now surpassing men in college degrees. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health-care. Seventy-five percent of women identify themselves as the primary shoppers for their households; $90 billion of the consumer electronic purchases according to several studies. If she decides to tune out, my products will be unsold.

The Impact: The year 2015 should be about the possible, and not what is popular. Many more global award shows will be on schedule from the Carnival, Reggae Sun Splash, Grammy, Super Bowl, the Golden Globe, and the Oscars. Other networks will continue to search for the “Big Get” to interview another high-profile domestic violence case.

These “Gets” sometimes create the wrong impression that, because the perpetrators and the victim are rich and famous, it can be fixed immediately. The reality is that; re-victimization is silent while a television rating gets loud. A influential abuser can be charming. The victim often believes it is just a one-time occurrence. Regrettably, many times these big stories are simple a prepared speech.

In an email to me, one wrote, while living in the Caribbean during the 1960s, she suffered years of domestic abuse by her first husband who raped and punched repeatedly even in his sleep. Instantly, he would apologize.

When she reported the to the local police department with signs of an abuse; the police shrugged it off and told her, “She must have done him something.” She also recalled a co-worker who used heavy make-up to hide her bruises, and a friend she lost when her husband severed her head.

Repeatedly it seems media pundits cannot resist overtime drive for an outcome of this violence, rather than focusing on the cause. The victim’s support is paramount, especially to escape an abusive relationship. The fear of financial hardship and of neglecting their children, and safety concerns, combined with the lack of support remain a hurdle.

Remaining silent because of shame has to be debunked. This only leads to more abuse. Domestic violence, rape, murder, and other crimes have left many hearts broken in 2014. These incidents seem to have come to remain a normal way of life as perpetrators continue committing more crimes.The

Disconnect: One would hope a victim’s race, color, sexual orientation, economic status, or nationality didn’t diminish this problem in 2015, and beyond. The lens by which some see this epidemic only promotes more intolerance, which is as dangerous as the act itself. For example: “what I dubbed the location homosexual” Inside this gay, lesbian, and transgender community, despite the fight for equality for all, one’s socio-economic status remains a barrier sometimes for inclusion.

The xenophobia of domestic violence excusing criminal behaviour must be stopped and is extremely troubling. When pop superstar Rihanna became a victim, her Barbadian nationality was  more important than the abuse itself. One lady suggested that “the Caribbean bitch probably put some roots on him. She was too much in love with this America boy and does not understand the culture that he needed space.”Another, “He better watches himself, those island women are crazy.” And he just smacked down the Caribbean.

When does it become a crime? A woman who has been punched in Barbados or Boston should not make a difference. It hurts anywhere. Furthermore, the narrative has to change, as many pundits would like to believe that only black men and the distressed community are associated with domestic violence cases.

Domestic violence affects everyone. Stop the Violence Against Women. An advocate group compiled a list of studies from the United Kingdom, which quantified pain and suffering costs as well as the costs of services used by victims and the reduction in economic output due to domestic abuse, and concluded that domestic violence costs people, the state and businesses about $23 billion. Sometimes, given the lengthy responses to other epidemics and other social issues, optimism remains elusive.

The Taliban killed over 100 adolescent students in Pakistan for seeking an education, Boko Haram escalated its attack in Nigeria, gas price at a record low, the president approval numbers have gone up, and Cuba now has a new friend, the US, the economy has rebounded, and so society moved on.

Global Reaction To The Terrorist Attack On French Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

These geopolitical, criminal, economic, and social issues are important to discuss, but unfortunately, domestic violence awareness quietly diminished from airwaves. Putting off this subject is as dangerous, as many women who stayed in their toxic relationships for decades. Such as Santa’s wish, domestic violence focus has to become prime time like Scandal, Days of Our Lives, or Downton Abbey popular television shows. This topic cannot be highlighted if only the elites are involved. For many parts of the world, it is a major problem, and perpetrators are going unpunished and unnoticed.

Finally: It is critical more local and international artistes use their platforms to spread awareness. When women lose their trust in the judicial system, it creates silence. This year, the mentality of a few will not change who believe that women are to be seen and not heard. Gender bias will not disappear.

Many abusers will compete again; show up at your local concerts. Millions of young women will be screening, and even you will dance. The hope is at least a few will show up with a picture of the abused women and families killed. Domestic violence cannot be a missed opportunity.

“I was guilty too because this article should have been published earlier.”

Commentary: Boko Haram is not just a Nigerian problem; many are in Caribbean under Disguise

By. R.D. Miller

Let us talk: Recently the world paused and, after three weeks, many have united across all socio-economic status. They emerged and denounced the April 15, 2014, kidnapping of over 250 Nigerian schoolchildren. These schoolgirls were taken at gunpoint when armed men who promised to rescue them proved wrong. These men were not government officials, but a ruthless Islāmic extremist called Boko Haram.

Photo Credit-Guardian-Online

First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama elected heads of the Islāmic community called this action barbaric; and Malala, a girl from Pakistan, has joined the call for their freedom. She too was shot for promoting education for young girls. Weeks later, over 250 are still missing as many are wondering what next.

On Saturday, May 10, 2014, I attended Howard University’s 146th graduation. Sean P. Daddy Combs, music entertainer, delivered the commencement speech. Also in attendance, Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor. They both received Honorary PhDs.

These young girls were fresh on their minds as they too called for their release. As I watched several graduates from all over the world with pride in their accomplishments, I wondered how many future women around the world were celebrating their graduation, and what amount of exploitation it will take to be noticed by the outside world.

In practice, Boko Haram established an ideology of Islamist-militant rule that denounces education for women. This recent crime against humanity has proved that it affects us everywhere

This latest attempt is not new and in essence, many scholars believe, this action is part of the human trafficking that is the new form of slavery. If there was a time we need to emancipate our minds from mental slavery, it is now.

Who is watching Boko Haram? On the other side of the globe, there are several Boko Harams enjoying the Caribbean sun, lurking on the white sands and in towns from Aruba to Trinidad and Tobago, including Latin America. They do not live jungles, forests, and or wear army clothing. However, one should take a few minutes to look around, and you might just find a few similarities to what had occurred.

Mary Ellsberg talked about sexual violence against women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean aged 15-49. She has reported that between 10 and 47 percent of ever-married women have experienced sexual violence, or rape by an intimate partner. Also, between 8 and 26 percent of women have suffered sexual violence by a non-partner as either a child or adult, and the health effects that are not limited to HIV, but other sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancy.

Today, there is plenty of blame to go around, from the lack of leadership by the Nigerian government to its first denial stemming from pride, embarrassment, and fear of retaliation, and lack of resources, despite the warning signs, and now these parents have to take on justice on their own and some have started the search themselves.

The implication here is not that residents of Caribbean islands should scan all global newspapers and make every issue their own. Sometimes it is very easy to decrease these atrocities, and especially let it vanish from the radar and not trying to find out why these problems occur. Location, location, location, often creates individual detachment. It also can be how one places a value on any given crisis as we tend to believe we are immune from these crimes but, as we educate ourselves beyond our boundaries, it is much easier to find these problems next door.

The US government estimates that some 600,000-800,000 people are taken from their families each year and many millions are being held as forced laborers within their home countries. This is an estimated $10 billion business. The average sale price for a slave is around $1,250 according to the United Nation. The practice stretches beyond the African and Asian countries, but also up and down the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea like illegal drugs.

Furthermore, over 1.2 million children are sold each year, and an estimate that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 years experience forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact, and about a third of women aged 20-24 years old in the developing world were married as children, according what UNICEF and the World Health Organization have reported.

Why Boko Haram Matters: When Boko Haram threatens to sell these young girls for less than $10, it is not a far-fetched idea; it is reality. However, can we continue to allow ourselves to be detached? Often we portray this region through selective reasoning, and believe only a court can impose sanctions, by laws that are there to protect children and that can be a simply form of marginalization.

Minimization in some crisis is natural process when we are helpless, and especially if an issue has no significance. For example, what if i told you that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, killing about 8,650 Americans in each year, and millions will become affected from fake sun-tanning machines. With the natural sunshine, there is no need for such machine in the region, Yes! You are probably correct, one’s personal responsibility can be diminished.

Alternatively, when Mr Putin, Russian president, invaded Ukraine, and families were disrupted when pro-Russian separatists groups took over government buildings and disrupted normal lives, this might not have been a Caribbean issue, but we should watch.

On the other hand, if I told you every year, about 100,000 Americans are victims of gun violence and countless others whose lives are forever changed by the deaths of and injuries to their loved ones. You might know some who has been affected, and only when one speaks up society can create the change it deserves.

The Caribbean Boko Haram: Is not a simple man in army clothes, it is an ideology, and the name is translated means [deceptive]. Today, the region must step back and look inside its own where Boko Haram is lurking in local churches, schools, on public buses, and town areas where young school students are being raped, kidnapped when going to school, and forced into relationships with older men

In 2013 according to  Reuters  report, Kim, now 89, said “she was only 15 in 1941 when a local official came to her village in South Korea and took her away, and sent her including others to a military brothel where she worked as a sex slave.” 

This picture condemned those behaviour.  In addition, some fathers, uncles, and elected leaders are trolling the streets like predators searching for young girls and boys, while isolating their wives through emotional and financial abuse where the scars are not visual.

Not every ideology stems from slavery or colonization. Today, some cultures allow multiple wives for one man, young girls are being sold off into marriages at an early age, female circumcision (female genital mutilation). Incest is normal, and women are not allowed to file for divorce, or even drive.

Sure, this region has evolved, which often makes it more difficult to fathom. Therefore, some issues seem as only noise, morphed into our sub-consciousness, as the modern world has moved on, or into a tolerant cultural attitude that minimizes itself in disguise.

Boko Haram prohibits education of young girls. However, their actions are closer to home than we can imagine. A State Department report said, “This organization receives bulk of its funding from bank robberies and related criminal activities, including extortion and kidnapping for ransom.”

Does this sound similar where gang members often engage in these criminal behaviors? Some have even gotten too powerful for the local law enforcement to make an arrest or enter their neighborhoods.

From Kingston, Jamaica, to Trinidad, several areas are becoming more unsafe, and these criminal elements have reduced tourism and even family members who are now hesitant to return.

I believe such is a trip to Boko’s region, these same criminal concerns reverberate today in several areas.

Often, just like the Nigerian government, the sad fact is that many in the Caribbean region spin and lower several of society’s problems. However, Boko Haram thrives on poor leadership, poverty, corruption, lack of education and poor governance.

Any society where trust is low, and a few reap justice based on wealth, crimes that are overlooked such as domestic and sexual violence, young girls forced into relationships with older men just to survive, unsolved crimes, poor economic policies, and educational system where only a few can afford it makes Boko Haram’s ideology more powerful.

Today, several brothels are strategically located in large and small towns and along the white sands. They have their client base from visitors to local business officials, and politicians. These people do not dress or sound like the Nigerian Boko Haram.

They are church members, and will not raid malls with machine guns on a shooting rampage. However, the ideologies are a few blocks from your house and government buildings.

Try telling a mother that her child was missing from simply going to school, and she knows is alive. Although 250 young girls have not been taken off the beaches or local schools in one day; however, even one missing per day in the region will be more than one year. Where is the outrage here?

Going Forward: The United Nations has always had protocols to prevent, suppress, and punish human trafficking. However, these laws are not adequately implemented to protect victims, and especially in cases of domestic violence. However, when government fails to delegate it responsibility to help the less fortunate among us, and continues to expose these people to risk, and fails to protect, they are just as “deceptive” as the word Boko Haram repres

Several writers have noted protecting trafficked children requires timely victim identification, placing them in safe environment, providing them with social services, health care, psychosocial support, and reintegration with family and community.

In some respects, I am not condoning that nothing has been done, as these families endure a lifetime of pain, while governments alone sometimes lack the resources, and are incapable. On the other hand, some leaders seem worried about how they seem on the evening news and not creating policies, and stiffer sentences for child abusers.

This is a complicated task in the terrain to find these girls, and navigating these waters to get rid of Boko Haram can be difficult. It will take collaboration between psychology, economic policy, and criminology woven into what type of future they want.

Finally, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria has asked for help. The Obama administration and the international community have agreed. Today, leaders in the Caribbean needs a gap analysis and they should ask for help to weed out their own Boko Harams before it is too late. many geopolitical, criminal, economic, and social issues are important to discuss, but unfortunately most of these issue will take a back seat based on location,  and social stratification.