Saturday, September 03, 2011

How would your candidate help a colleague who is being abused?

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 27 August 2011)   

Question 11 of 12:  
If a colleague or a spouse of a colleague came to you because she was being abused, how would you handle the situation? Would you handle it in the same way it has been handled in the past – with silence and try to cover it up?

PPP/C Candidate Donald Ramotar

(Laughing) You don’t really expect me to answer that. (More laughing)

First of all, I would not expect a colleague of the PPP to behave in such a manner because that goes totally against the whole grain of everything that we believe in. So, first of all, I would not expect it. Secondly, if something like that really occurs and it is brought to my attention, I will let it take its course…let the law take its course.

I do not think I would like to intervene in a situation like that, to defend even a colleague caught in that situation. The most I would probably do to help is if there needs to be psychological help or to get medical attention. Sure I would help in that regard.

I don’t expect it; let me put it that way. But if it does occur, then I would allow it to take its course. It’s not my business. That would be for the law enforcement people.

AFC Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan

I will never cover it up. I have had very many close friends whose wives have come to me and I have [let the abusers have it]. And that is how you have to do it with them. Friend or no friend, brother or no brother, you got to do it that way. There is no other way. And we as lawyers must be fearless to go straight to them and tell them that’s the way.

You have to ask them, “You coming to be a big public figure or judicial figure and you are treating your wife like that? You haven’t got any shame at all? This is what you do with the girl?”  They get scared then and they settle [the case].

The woman has got to be brave too. They have to bring it to an end. If you start being scared and cowardly, the thing is not going to work. You have got to be forceful with him. There is no other way. You go half-hearted; you are going to get half burnt. You have got to go full forward and see this thing brought to a halt.

APNU Candidate David Granger
(Edited for space)

Well I don’t know the circumstances, so it is difficult for me to speculate. I would like to feel that I could play a role in discerning what the problem is and in trying to resolve the problem. Now it is very, very difficult for third parties to know enough. Certainly they cannot know the whole truth. It sometimes takes a long period of counseling to get the two parties to even explain what the problems are.

I don’t know the present divorce rate in Guyana, but I am sure might be close to 40 percent of all marriages. And it takes a very long time to find out what problems exist between two human beings because each party might be unwilling to explain, particularly if the problem is of a sexual nature. I do believe it is also very difficult for adults to overcome the prejudices and anxieties of childhood…or the insecurities of childhood. And you may be dealing with someone who is very insecure.

So if I have a Cabinet Minister, for example, or if I have a senior colleague, I wouldn’t jump into the marital problems. I would try to find out what could have caused that problem and maybe try to expose the two of them to professional counseling.

Domestic violence is a crime and it has to be treated as a crime and punished as a crime. That crime has its roots in the person’s behaviour. Domestic violence is an invention people use to dominate other people. It is not natural. It is something [like this]: you want to control your subordinates, you want to control the women, you want to control your children – use violent means.

You equip yourself [with] some instrument and you go home and terrorise your family. It has to be treated at a crime, but at the same time you have to go back to why that person used that type of behaviour to dominate persons who are helpless in his or her own household.

My response:
If there is one thing I have said over and over and over throughout the years I have been writing on the issue of domestic violence, it is that abuse is NOT a private issue. It makes me incredibly sad to think that someone who could be the next president of Guyana would say that the abuse of a colleague or the spouse of a colleague is none of his business – as Donald Ramotar has done in his answer to this question. It is most certainly his business.

One of the most distressing aspects about domestic violence is how isolated victims can feel from the rest of the world. Living in an abusive relationship is a lonely life. There are threats of more violence if the abuse is spoken about to others, yet even when the silence is not broken, the violence continues. It is a lose/lose situation and the silence only allows the violence to continue.

When someone says that domestic violence is a “private matter,” they are completely and utterly wrong. I know what it is like to feel isolated from the rest of the world in my own little hell and to believe there is no one else who can or will raise a finger to help me. Dismissing domestic violence as a “private matter” after someone has reached out for help keeps the victim in her prison of silence.

How many women suffer in silent torment today in Guyana? Hundreds? Thousands? Even if it is just one (though we know it is far more), that is one too many. Guyana needs leaders who are not afraid to say that domestic violence is a crime, as David Granger has done, or to get in the face of abusers and shame them for their actions, as Khemraj Ramjattan has done.

Ratings:  Ramotar – 0; Ramjattan – 3; Granger – 2

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