Diplomatic Notes

Domestic violence

The Bahamas experienced another devastating incident on the heels of the tragic murder of a young child. News reports indicated that a man not only stabbed his partner who was holding a baby in her arms but returned to run her over with a car. Reports of domestic violence are not new, but it seems in recent times that there has been a dramatic uptick in these events. The natural question is what can we do about it, and can it be curbed? What are the causes of such incidents and, as a society, what preventative measures should be put in place?

I believe there are a combination of factors at work here and, to have success in stemming the tide, there has to be a multi-level approach. As a nation, we are hurting, and we are hurting from many self-inflicted wounds. We are and have been at our best when we follow the Christian values and principles stated in the preamble to our constitution. When we stray away from these values, the results are predictable. Stable, productive relationships come from a stable and productive society. When the environment is broken, broken people emerge. We are and have been on a downward spiral for years and have evolved into a culture of excess. Our excesses and vices have affected our mental and physical well-being and the incidences we see are a reflection of these things.

What makes The Bahamas stable? Our formula for success in the past has been strong families, community concern and service, faith, and values. We were never close to perfect, but we had enough of these ingredients to minimize the social impact. We have evolved to a drug and alcohol-addicted, vice-driven, selfish, corrupt and violent environment – and, as stated earlier, the results have been predictable. The young men who are killing each other today are often (not always) the product of broken families. Many have been abused and, in turn, become abusers. The combination of these factors has impacted our mental health and the casualties of this war end up on the front pages.

There is no easy answer because many of the issues are deeply systemic. There are no easy answers – but there are answers. The question is are we willing to accept the answers? As a once broken and scarred young man, who found the answers, I can only hope that others can follow the same path. We have to do it collectively. Of course, the laws have to be in place to form the framework for justice. Laws and enforcement of laws unfortunately do not change hearts. By the time people face the law, it is already too late for meaningful change, so we must intervene earlier and focus on the young generation and seek to instill principles that will lead to their success. We must teach and train our young people on how to have effective relationships. Those who are challenged should be steered and required to undergo relationship training and anger management.

Jesus provided the answers for us in the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What a simple yet powerful admonition. Unfortunately, some of us do not even treat ourselves right, so we cannot treat others right. Mental health is a big part of the solution. I remember when my wife worked with the Bahamas Crisis Centre and in the social work field. She would tell me stories of how a man would severely beat his wife and his wife would go to the police. He would show up after being charged with flowers and the next thing that would happen is the wife would say her husband said sorry, so she is going to forgive him. Abused women, in particular, seem to find it difficult to embrace the reality of their situation. They refuse to press charges only to become victims again.

Hopefully, more resources will now be poured into safe houses and homes for these women, and counseling and training on relationship management will help them to find better and more stable relationships. The church is critical in this process, and the partnership between the state and the church should be expanded to reach more people. Individuals, community and civic groups, the government and the church all have to step up in a concerted effort to effect change. The issue will not go away, or diminish on its own – it will only change if we change it.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to
pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.

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