By IAN BETHEL
Around town of late there has been a great deal of talk about schools and students and violence. The radio shows have been busy presenting opinions on what has become an apparent epidemic of youth-centred violence. The Minister of Education has commented on it. As a country, one of the things we have to do is step back and begin to ask what we are doing to perpetuate this violence?
In a recent study conducted by a team at the College of the Bahamas, the findings revealed that children who grew up in homes where there was violence were more likely to perform violence outside. Society tends to think that the way we speak to each other does not matter. The ways we act at home do not matter to how our children behave in public. The last few articles that have appeared here have dealt with violence. This article, it is hoped, will show how these facets come together and create a problem with inequalities and social violence.
What the community is experiencing is related to the environment around and the sociocultural expectations or constructs of gender. Again, we have to realise that gender is not about women or gays; it is the sociocultural constructs or roles that are pinned to sex. So men are expected to be one way and women are expected to be another way. If one or the other displays behaviour society associates with the opposite sex, then they are viewed as being deviant or acting against the norm. Society criticises them based on assumed abnormality. At the same time, society reinforces expected behaviours such as men acting violently and women submitting to violence.
According to “Profile of the Sentenced Inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison, Fox Hill, Nassau, The Bahamas” by Minnis and others, 31 per cent of the inmates at the prison were abused and 47 per cent stated that it was by a parent of guardian. This is an alarming statistic. It shows how serious a problem violence is and also how significantly abuse influences later violent behaviour.
Related to this, 95 per cent of the respondents were male and 79 per cent had been educated in the public system; 54 per cent had dropped out of school, while 48 per cent were expelled for various reasons: the number one was fighting at 33 per cent.
Moreover, of the individuals polled, 49 per cent had witnessed violence in the home, 66 per cent witnessed physical violence. Half of the inmates surveyed witnessed violence. Violence is obviously a massive problem in society, and it only perpetuates more violence. It becomes normal for young males to perform the roles they see other males performing in their lives. The report also showed that education had a significant impact on the person’s involvement in crime and violence. What does this tell us about the way Bahamian society is moving? Given the heightened police presence, school drop out rates, and increasing youth and school violence, we are on the road to experience even more violence.
Society keeps looking for answers to crime and violence beyond us, in policing and law enforcement, but the answers actually lie within us. We need to be more Positively involved in our families. As violence in the home is such a huge factor, we must examine how we accept violence in our lives, and how much domestic violence there is. Often, the community states that men need to be in the home with their families and one of the primary reasons for all the social problems is the absence of men in children’s lives, especially in young boys’ lives.
The same study discussed the fact that 40 per cent of the population had lived with their mother and 36 per cent lived with both parents. Obviously, this is not as serious an indicator as people say it is. If there is an abusive male in the home is that better or worse than no male at all? Society expects men to be violent.
Again, if half of the inmates witnessed violence, how many others saw violence in their lives and act it out later? Certainly, domestic violence increases with the increase in fiscal violence through the economic downturn. What society so glibly refers to as social concerns actually influences ever aspect of community living.
When the economy worsens, as it is, unemployment increases and crime and violence increase as well. How is it that politicians and leaders expect any other result than increased violence if fiscal violence consumes the community?
Further, the response to this fiscal violence is only worsened by structural violence that includes official policies and laws. At the same time, police presence has now been normalized in schools and other places that should be experienced as safe spaces. All of these forms of violence work together along with gendered norms to perpetuate all forms of violence. The increase in both of these only indicates that there are serious problems in the social fabric that cannot be addressed through creating a police state that so ultimately criminalises men.