By IAN BETHEL BENNET
Once again we have stepped into a discussion of violence. Violence has been equated with masculine behaviour. However, it is not limited to men and should not be thought of as male. Despite what society says about violence, everyone commits violence. We see increased numbers of girls fighting in schools, yet no one actually reports these events. So much is not discussed about school-based violence and gender-based violence that we have to ask what they think they are hiding from us. Or, what do we think we are hiding from ourselves?
Is it better to suffer in silence than to talk about it? The violence proliferates and we remain mute. We drive by schools at 3:00pm and are lucky if we make it by without incident. Students heard out and fight with bottles, knives and sometimes guns. Yet these events are rarely published. The police are there and running behind perpetrators of violence and crime, but nothing is ever said. We all see these fights; we hear about these fights; we offer that putting police in the schools will reduce the number of incidents. Has the number really gone down?
Does having armed police on campuses really send a positive message to the youth? Does it make young people think, okay since the police have guns, perhaps we all need guns to feel safe, and they go out and get guns? The more guns we have in circulation the more chances we have of people getting shot. Obviously, as soon as one draws a gun the action escalates rapidly and results in serious damage.
Violence and harm do not end simply because we have policed the world. Since the financial crisis that started in 2007, episodes of intimate-partner violence at the hands of police officers have increased. Living in Puerto Rico showed how officers often killed their wives and sometimes families with their service weapons. They would then turn their weapons on themselves. These are men who had been reported prior to the death of their families because they were behaving violently. They were meant to receive on-the-job counselling because law enforcement is horribly stressful and violent. They witness violent behaviour everyday. They act violently in the course of their duties. They are taught to use violence to keep the peace. Yet we are left aghast when they are unable to turn off the violence when they leave work. How are they meant to function in peaceful ways when violence surrounds them?
When a police officer commits partner abuse, he is acting out what he has been seeing day after day? Are there warning signs? Do we choose to see those warning signs? Do we offer police officers any decompression time? We tend to talk about therapy as if it is a bad thing, a treatment reserved for sick people. We laugh at men who are able to talk through their stress. Therapy and counselling actually help prevent people losing the plot. It attempts to bring them back to a place where they feel whole. When one is constantly exposed to violence and crime, how easy is it to feel whole? How easy is it, rather to inflict violence on those around them? Men are supposed to be physical, so they act things out physically. They are used to being obeyed on the job. What does this translate to at home?
Society has chosen to ignore how often law enforcement officials commit violence against their intimate partners. Our silence is actually deadly. By being silent about the internalisation of violence, by refusing to accept and talk about the need to allow law enforcement officials to detoxify after their time in the trenches, we actually encourage more violence. It has become clear to other countries that they have to work with their law enforcement officials as well as their soldiers as this goes a long way in reducing intimate partner violence as well as violent reactions against those around them. They may no longer perform violence. They do send warning signs that they are under far too much pressure, (they behave as if they are in a pressure cooker, that if improperly opened, will explode), but society and their work companions choose to see this as normal.
Do they attempt to work with others in need so that they do not act out violently? Why do we send grief counsellors into schools anytime someone dies yet we deny the grief of working with death and violence everyday? How is it that we expect men to be violent on the job and then are horrified when they behave violently at home? Do women officers have the same or similar problems? Is there an on-off switch for violence? here is it? How can we allow people to access it?
When we refuse to acknowledge that extreme violence lived daily will eventually lead to violence being a part of the person who sees it, we condemn them to performing violence? When children play video games such as Grand Theft Auto regularly, studies have shown that they are more likely to behave violently. We can make these connections but we cannot seem to make the links between a lack of proper treatment to release job-related stress when people are faced with violence everyday and their externalization of violence. We teach men that it is not masculine to talk about their stress and their problems. We tell them that it is better for them to blow up and kill those around them. That is truly masculine behaviour.
When are we going to wake up and stop reacting to events after they are done? Given the roller coaster the country is on, we are likely to experience far more violence against intimate partners on the part of law enforcement officials, especially if we as a society refuse to acknowledge the links between work drama and officers’ internailsation of violence and then acting it out in their lives?
• Dr. Ian Bethell-Bennett, Associate Professor in the School of English Studies at the College of the Bahamas, has written extensively on race and migration in the Bahamas, cultural creolisation and gender issues. Direct questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.