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If You Witness Physical Abuse, Do Something

By Annan Boodram
Guest Writer

Annan Boodram -- smallA few days ago, a Guyanese-American man murdered his wife and then hanged himself. According to a co-worker of the deceased, “It was noted that Dojoy (the wife) would tell her friends that Budhidat (the husband) was controlling and violent. She talked about him abusing her, controlling her, beating her, scaring her, threatening to kill her…She never took it seriously because she loved him.”

During the same week, the Barbados media was filled with articles and reactions to the fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old student, by a 15-year-old student, after an altercation between the two.

In Guyana, a 17-year-old young lady was raped, then murdered, two days before she was to graduate from high school. Subsequent information indicated that she was being sexually and physically abused for quite a while.

And in Jamaica, there is a lament over the fact that cyber bullying is on the rise, and sex abuse victims are getting younger and younger.

Similar concerns abound in every Caribbean nation. So what is the connection among all of this? It’s the do nothing mentality!

The murdered wife in New York City and her coworkers were aware of her abuse — but did nothing! Relatives and neighbors of that young lady in Guyana were aware of her abuse — but did nothing. Teachers and parents of that16-year-old Barbadian student must have been aware of his tendencies towards violence — but did nothing.

In fact, often one reads or hears about suicide whereby loved ones say the victim had always talked about killing himself or herself, but it was taken as joke; or that they were aware of signs of depression — but they did nothing. Or that someone being abused “must sleep on the bed she/he has made”; or the victim so loves the abuser that somehow love would make it all right. Or that someone with a violent temper is really a good person, as if being “good” cancels out the consequences of the spurts of violent actions.

Far too often, counseling never seems to come to mind. Yet there is a copious amount of research that clearly shows that counseling is generally effective.

According to Shannon Sumrall, in ‘Counseling Effectiveness’, “high success rates appear in meta-analysis of the literature” on counseling effectiveness. She added, “the vast majority of the research, when examined as a whole, seem to indicate very positive outcomes for counseling”.

Anger management can be tackled with counseling; so too violence, among the young especially. Depression, stress, anxiety, suicide ideation, abusive behavior can all be tackled with counseling.

So here’s the deal: if you see something, do something! Take action and save a life, rather than lament, after the fact. Remember, “it’s better to be safe than to be sorry”. Besides, you must do for someone else what you would want someone to do for you. So let’s all become involved now! Reach out, as quickly as possible, to get someone the help he or she needs!

However, counseling cannot be possible when there is a lack of mechanisms in place to enable easy, quick and affordable, if not free, access. Thus there is a need for counselors in schools, health care institutions and wherever else necessary.

After all, counseling can only be offered by trained professionals, although The Caribbean Voice is aware of persons, who claim to be counselors because they, themselves, were counseled at one time. That would be like someone sitting in a courtroom listening to a few cases, then claiming to be a lawyer; or someone who, after witnessing a doctor at work, concludes that he or she has become a doctor. A lawyer, a doctor or a counselor must have requisite professional qualifications and supervised experience, before practicing on his or her own.

The Caribbean Voice has seen firsthand the fatal results of persons attempting counseling without requisite qualifications and training (a masters in psychology and one year’s supervised clinical experience).

The latest was the case of a young lady in Guyana, killing herself after her father paid a quack counselor to counsel her, because she was suicidal.

We have also had many, many experiences, whereby people would say, “I talk to him/her but he/she does not listen to me”. Such persons may be well meaning and, out of love and concern, believe that once they talk to a depressed, suicidal, abused person or someone prone to bouts of violence, everything should be okay. But it would be, because they don’t have the tools with which to communicate, diagnose and heal and, in fact, their ‘talk’ could well make matters worse.

Very often, counselors in private practice are quoted in the Caribbean media talking about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done, but hardly ever do they volunteer pro bono help.

Given that in the Caribbean there is shortage of counselors to adequately fill the need, counselors in private practices must put aside some of their time for volunteer services, possibly working in tandem with NGOs, Community Service Organizations, local government organs, public institutions and even faith-based organizations.

Without this access, counseling would be nonexistent for far too many.

I am aware that a traditional taboo against counseling exists among Caribbeans, to a greater or lesser degree, with some feeling that “only mad people need counseling”. But I have seen, time and again, that individuals, from all walks of life, who fail to seek counseling, end up becoming fatalities or creating mayhem, including taking lives.

Even in our own experiences, while every one of almost 500 cases The Caribbean Voice has handled since we launched our campaign in 2014, has been successful, other cases, of which we are aware, that did not get counseled, ended up as fatalities and/or causing fatalities and horror or both.

This is where the media has a critical role: to publish contact information for all helplines and hotlines, as well as pro bono counseling access; to emphatically and continually promote counseling under all related circumstances; informing their readers about the conditions, under which help must be sought; and by regularly publishing counseling success stories. Now, more than ever, media must rise to their social responsibility!

Annan Boodram is the President of The Caribbean Voice, a registered volunteer-driven, not-for-profit NGO, engaged in suicide and all forms of abuse prevention in Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — in partnership with sister NGO ‘Say Enough is Enough Support Group — and the Caribbean Diaspora in North America.

For information about how we can help or to become involved please email caribvoice@aol.com or thecaribbeanvoiceinc@gmail.com or what’s app 646-461-0574, 845-504-0500, 592-621-6111. Also check out our website at www.caribvoice.org.

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