Provocation is no justification for abuse


A domiciled Guyanese recently posted on Facebook that women should stop provoking men, since such provocation leads to domestic abuse. This victim-blaming is nothing new, but it is indeed astounding that there are still women who propagate such a view, yet claim to be anti-abuse activists, as this poster does.
Experts have reached a consensus on several common characteristics among batterers:- they are controlling; manipulative; often see themselves as victims; and believe that men have a pre-ordained right to be in charge of all aspects of a relationship.
For some abusers, violence is a tool to keep their intimate partners from leaving the relationship; ensure that those partners ‘know their place’, and ‘respect’ their abusers, although that respect is generally equated with fear. Abuse, then, is the continuous result of power inequality between the partners, and one partner is afraid of, and harmed by, the other, who feels powerful in the relationship context, with ‘provocation’ being a mere excuse to exhibit this power.
Yet, the same individual who hits his partner or child would be quite angry if a Police officer pulled him up for no reason, and/or demanded a bribe; but he would never chose to hit the Police officer. Similarly, that person would put up with provocation, but never choose to hit a boss, a worker in a Government office, someone in authority, or someone bigger and stronger than him.
However, in a society where abuse has been normalised, women are still subservient to men, males are still socialised to see themselves as the ones with ‘power’ in a relationship (you a de maan), and citizens see abuse as not their business; alternate choices are hardly ever considered.
Such alternatives include: do not overreact, but stay calm, and take a walk if necessary; listen without interrupting, but to understand; show respect instead of engaging in back and forth insults; be emphatic instead of judgmental, and apologise when the situation so demands; give each other space; discuss issues to seek non-violent resolutions; and even use humour in this process; recall the positives of the relationship as a way of recognizing what is at stake; seek the help of someone with mediating skills, such as an elder or a priest.
These approaches are generally included in workshops and outreaches by abuse prevention entities such as The Caribbean Voice. However, there is only so much that non-governmental entities can do, and thus there is need for lay counsellors/gatekeepers who would indeed be equipped to help partners deal with relationship issues in every community. And as TCV has continuously pointed out, gatekeepers’ training can piggyback on all sorts of other training, so that it does not become a massive or expensive undertaking.
As well, those involved in abuse activism on the ground must be armed with the knowledge to help partners address relationships’ issues, instead of seeking to justify abuse and engage in victim blaming. Otherwise, the harm can easily be multiplied.

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About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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