THE ALICIA WALLACE COLUMN: They’re only children - look after them well

There is reluctance to recognise children as whole people with a range of emotions they have to learn to recognise and handle and their own likes and dislikes in addition to the need for guidance, education and discipline. Children, like adults, sometimes disagree with what they are asked to do. It will not always be expressed in the most acceptable way, and the reasoning may not always be strong, but they will disagree. This may mean they refuse to do as they are told. Some parents are more open to conversation and negotiation than others. A disobedient child can be frustrating to anyone, but some take the time to find out why they disobey. While children do not get to make many decisions on their own, they should be encouraged to express themselves in appropriate ways. If they are not comfortable doing this and advocating for themselves, room is left for them to be violated in many ways without it being reported. They need to know they can speak up, and how.

On a daily basis, we encounter or see reports of adults who do not communicate well. There is likely a connection between their home life and their current practices. I remember the recording of a little girl reciting the poem Children Learn What They Live that played on ZNS at least once every evening. The poem explained that children’s lived experiences contribute to who they become as adults. Experiences of hostility lead to fighting, experiences of tolerance lead to patience, experiences of honestly lead to truthfulness, and so on. People over the age of 25 can probably picture the little girl and hear her elocution. How many people actually learned from that poem or, at the very least, understood that children are constantly becoming adults with every experience they have?

I was disappointed to hear about a video of a girl being circulated along with commentary that condemned her for being “forward” and “rude”. She is being told to clean a room, and she can be heard saying the adult — the person recording the video — choked her. In a second video, she is seen jumping a fence to leave the property. Without seeing or hearing what happened before the recording started, most comments on the video are from people who saw violence as the answer. From “I was ga be brought up on charges” to “She wouldn’t have legs to jump no fence,” the comments are not surprising given our proclivity to violence, but disturbing. Numerous people commented about knocking the teeth out of her mouth, and quite a few asked for a few hours with the girl. They expressed excitement and delight at the thought of physically abusing the child in the name of discipline and correction. Could it be that they have their own issues to work through, but choose to take out on others?

We do not know the relationship between the child and the adult. We do not know what the child endured, for how long, or what circumstances brought her to be in the care of this adult. We do not know why she refused to the clean the room, what led her to leave, or where she ended up. For some, adults are always right and children are always wrong. They think children are supposed to do as they are told without thought or question, or accept whatever treatment they are given. Fortunately, we are not all the same. Some will not accept abuse masquerading as discipline. It is obvious that people have issues they need to work on, and professional help is needed. To watch a video of strangers and be thrilled at the idea of beating someone’s child — and for the extended period of time some suggested — is certainly a sign of at least one problem. Maybe those people, as children, lived with hostility and learned to fight, and that is the only way they know. That, however, is not an excuse. They need to seek help. We cannot afford to see another generation of trauma-filled people come of age in this country with no path to healing and no alternatives to the dangerous, recycled ways of thinking about communication, child-rearing, and conflict resolution. This is an issue that needs everyone’s attention — Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security,

Ministry of Education, religious leaders, psychologists and psychiatrists, youth advocates, and families need to speak up for the children who cannot or will not, and for the future of this nation.

Enthralled - but it’s not what you think

While I have never watched Game of Thrones and I’m quite certain I never will, I am fascinated by its cult following and all that comes with it. There is significant anticipation before the season premiere of several popular shows and Game of Thrones is among them, but it is maintained throughout the season. The buy-in to the programme unites people, except for when they are bickering with one another about spoilers. Some people watch it alone because they do not want to be distracted by other people’s reactions or the talk-back-to-the-television types while others thrive on the community surrounding it and go to ‘watch’ parties. Some make post after post throughout the show, much to the chagrin of people who are not able to watch it live. It is interesting to observe, even as a non-watcher, although it can be annoying for the social media timelines to be flooded with Arya this and Cersei that.

Few televisions shows have brought people together like Game of Thrones. I’m sure there are a number of issues for psychologists to explore given its violent, graphic nature. It has been suggested viewers enjoy the power struggle, unending frustration, sex and violence among other themes and factors. I can’t say that the widespread enjoyment of the show and the active community of fans is necessarily positive, but it is certainly interesting to observe. As Game of Thrones comes to end, we will probably see fans and researchers dissect the show, its following, and the components that have made watching it into an almost-religious activity. While I have no interest in watching the show, I may pick up one of the books and see how it goes.

Nothing means yes except an enthusiastic yes without pressure

A day does not go by without Bahamian social media drama and, every now and then, we get an extra dose of everything a few of us talk about all the time while many others pretend they do not notice. Earlier this week, a young Bahamian woman shared a story of sexual assault. In short, she was living abroad, exchanged messages with a Bahamian man, and went out with him when he was in the same city. They both got too drunk to drive and ended up at the place where he was staying. She refused his sexual advances several times, he forced himself on her, and she eventually escaped and drove herself home under the influence (which she had been trying to avoid).

The responses to this story were telling. They reeked of misogyny, full of victim-blaming and accusations. People said she made it up in order to boost her profile. Some said, predictably, that she caused her own sexual assault by being in the wrong place. It was a relief to see some people show empathy, letting her know they were sorry this happened to her, encouraging her to report it to police, and refuting what misogynists and rape apologists said. Some young men expressed their disappointment in men and their desire to be better.

The questions and accusations that came in response to this story of sexual abuse point to a lack of understanding — or a refusal to understand and acknowledge — consent and what constitutes consensual activity. Consent has been explained in many ways. One of the most popular is the “Consent is Like Tea” video. In it, tea is analogous to sex. When you offer someone tea, they can say yes or no. If they say yes and you have prepared to serve the tea, they may change their mind. While you have already made it, they do not have to drink it. You do not force them to drink the tea. Similarly, people can refuse sex, change their minds about having sex at any point, and must be considered unable to make a decision about sex given factors such as age, inebriation, or unconsciousness.

This is not difficult to understand. Do not force people to drink tea. Even if they brought a tea set, if they say they do not want tea, do not go any further. Do not rape people. It does not matter if they are in your house, in a state of undress, or flirted with you before. Nothing means yes except an enthusiastic yes without pressure.


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