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What we say about abuse when we speak out

Published: 
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

Having the passion and investiture in both ends of the spectrum, I continue to explore the discourse on childhood adversity as it presents in adult illnesses of mind and body. I’m pursuing it in the hope of raising awareness of abuse, provoking inquiry, or prompting prevention initiatives for our children, based on the prevalence of later-life psychoses attributed to early-life trauma. 

Research points to sexual trauma as the leading early-life influence in adult mental health diagnoses. Globally, the statistics show greater percentages of abuse in women, but this may be skewed because men are more unlikely to report abuse or seek intervention. 

Sexual abuse affects everyone–all ages, races, social standing, and both genders. Men are victims too. I consider that it took decades to expose the Catholic Church’s global sexual abuse scandal, where 80 per cent of the victims were boys. 

I consider what the statistics would be if we—men and women, boys and girls—were all equally “liberated” to talk about our experiences/traumas. And that in T&T, we still mostly reflect sexual abuse as a matter against females and still behave as if it’s bad manners to broach the topic. It takes extreme distress to get us talking (about anything). 

Following the death by strangulation of Japanese pan player Asami Nagakiya last week, I have highlighted some of what was expressed on/about abuse. 

Unknown: “I played mas for the first time this year. Early on Monday a guy from J’Ouvert pinned me against a fence. I had to use all my strength to free myself. I cried a lot last night. A lot of us women are walking around with the history of assault and abuse. We smile because we think that we don’t want to depress everyone around us. We don’t talk about it... I’ve been abused. I’ve never told anyone.” 

AM: “Do you know how difficult it is to get police involved in domestic issues. For years I’ve lived next to a couple who abused the crap out of their son and I take good cuss and threat for speaking up about it and to this day I’m still waiting for social services and the police to visit. Let’s protest that.” 

AS: “We have power we don’t understand—if you as a woman accept violence at the start of a relationship, then that’s how it’s going to continue—for you and your children. It leads to so many damaged people walking around, both male and female. For change to happen, we have to start with our young boys—modifying behavioural patterns at home, of violence, threats and language.” 

AB: “No one stands up for the real issues. Why aren’t we focusing on what really happened to this young woman and the large number of women and children going missing every day…Let’s band together and deal with the real issue.” 

AS: “These people who keep preaching to girls about their conduct and manner of dress to keep them from being attacked don’t realise that they are at the same time planting seeds of justification in the minds of boys that there are excuses that can be made for being abusive...Telling girls that their attire can encourage rape is subliminally telling boys they can be encouraged to rape.” 

This is a superficial outtake from the avalanche of expressions, and in the milieu, there was this exchange, which begged us to go deeper: 

MB wrote: “It is unfortunate that our focus after such an incident is on a foolish comment, rather than on a fact that I have been lamenting on for as long as I have been in the mental health profession, which is that we have a critical mental health problem in our society. I applaud companies and tertiary institutions who take this issue seriously and put support systems in place for their employees and students, but on a national level more needs to be done. Money is scarcely invested in this area and the professionals who know how to make a difference, ignored. So today, devoid of all the emotion, I pray for the people of this nation, who feel that they form part of a “new normal” to recognise that they need help and there is no embarrassment in seeking assistance when one feels unbalanced. 

EJ replied: “Y’all (sic) as a society have failed in this department. Failed in trauma-informed care, failed in cognitive behavioural therapy, behavioural therapy, play therapy, art therapy, psychoeducation, crisis intervention, psychoanalysis and the list goes on. 

“Worst with diagnosis. Y’all have a bunch of children running around with adjustment disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, opposition defiant disorder, conduct disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and doing nothing about it for decades and then when sociopaths come about this society behaves as if it happened out of thin air. Accept that there is a problem. 

“Growing up on Dundonald Hill and education provide me with enough evidence to say the majority of Trinidadians are extremely dysfunctional and need mental assistance as soon as possible.”