The Thursdays in Black Campaign to End Gender-based Violence with Headlights, spearheaded by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies-Regional Coordinating Office, Jamaica Council of Churches, Nurses Association of Jamaica and Jamaica Psychological Association, will continue today, under the theme No More Silent Cries!
THE death of Nashawn Brown, resulting from the beating by his stepfather, is not an anomaly. Every day, throughout Jamacia, regardless of class and ethnicity, children are abused emotionally, physically and sexually. This must stop. We must learn and understand that children are not empty vessels and not our property to do with as we feel. We must not take out our anger and frustration on our children. We must honour and respect our children, and we must not stand by and watch adults abuse children. Those of us who know better, must be the voice of children who are unable to speak for and defend themselves.
Whenever I see children out, whether going to school, church or some function, they are always well-groomed. It is evident that a parent or guardian invested time and energy to achieve that appearance. However, it seems that parents do not take the same amount of pride in the psychological and emotional welfare of their children.
What we as parents say to our children has deep, life-lasting implications. If we want children who are intelligent and compassionate and emotionally intelligent, then as parents we have to provide them with an opportunity to practice and internalise these values.
Contrary to what some adults might believe, each child comes into this world fully equipped with a unique personality, with specific likes and dislikes. While parents or guardians are intended to guide our children, we are not expected to dominate or terrorise them.
When I do workshops, parents often throw out the Bible phrase, “spare the rod and spoil the child,” which is taken completely out of context. No matter how you slice it, beating is violence. Although there should be no corporal punishment in schools, we know that children are being damaged irreparably by some teachers who humiliate them because they might not understand a certain lesson. Teachers are co-parents so it is vital that teachers are instructed in the psychology of children.
The data says that 75 per cent of adults who are in jail were abused as children. Those who rape, mutilate and murder, were abused as children. Here are the inescapable facts:
•80 per cent of Jamaican children experience or witness violence in their homes and communities, and 60 per cent experience violence at school.
• More than 40 per cent of persons treated at public health facilities for attempted suicide are children between the ages of 14 and 16.
• Adults who engage in violence against their intimate partners or children experienced and or witnessed violence in their homes or communities when growing up.
If we treat children with integrity, show them love and compassion we are on the pathway to creating an open, honest and healthy society. Let us act as if each child is our most precious treasure. Listen to our children. Speak softly and kindly. Do not be quick to judge or interpret their actions based on your own adult reasoning. Give them the benefit of doubt as you discipline, do it with love and compassion. Model kindness. Model forgiveness.
Professor Opal Palmer Adisa is University Director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, Regional Coordinating Office, University of the West Indies, Mona campus.