by KEISHEL A. WILLIAMS
Over the past two weeks, one thing has been made clear: the authority figures of Trinidad and Tobago consistently add fuel to the fire that is burning down their country. With the steady, almost daily increase of violence against women, citizens find themselves habitually questioning the direction of the country and what measures can and should be taking place for the safety of women. There has been an increasing number of individuals and organizations stepping out and showing solidarity in finding solutions for this grave situation, but there is one thing that looms across the nation and would continuously be a polarizing challenge to the efforts being made- authority figures.
When you have an authority figure in the form of either government leader or a member of the police force publicly stating that they cannot do anything about the wave of domestic crimes, and doing everything BUT verbally stating that they are unable to do anything about any other crime, you have a hostile environment that breeds lawlessness. These authority figures are giving license to the public to be more disorderly and lawless than they already are. Much can be said on this topic, however, at the moment we should focus on the impressionable future of the country – the youths. On Saturday, February 11th, we awoke to the news of a 15-year-old being found with her throat slit one day after being reported as missing. Her clothes were missing, and it is being assumed that she was a victim of sexual assault as well. Also in the news that day we read that two days prior, another 15-year-old girl was beaten and raped by a classmate in a classroom during school hours. On that same day, The Trinidad Guardian’s headline read CoP: We Can’t Stop Domestic Murders. The country’s Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, during a funeral service for yet another young lady who was violently murdered the previous weekend, made that public declaration. They, the police, cannot stop domestic murders (or violence). In response to the death of that young woman, at whose funeral CoP Williams made his not so startling declaration, the country’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley expressed similar sentiments though in a more disrespectful manner by stating: “You called on the Prime Minister to do something about crime. I am not in your bedroom, I am not in your choice of men.” All of this is just a one-week episode of Trinidad and Tobago, the Sinking Ship for Women.
What message is being relayed to the young men and women in the country when they hear these words? It seems that our leaders are blatantly confessing inadequacy as they are saying: “I cannot do my job.” Young people are hearing daily from authority figures that crime cannot be deterred. Young people are hearing daily that touching, manhandling, catcalling, raping, abusing and disrespecting their female counterparts is no big deal because they are not responsible for their actions, the women are. As a result, we have an escalation in youth crimes as well. Recently a young man physically assaulted and raped his classmate – not the first incident of this kind in the past few years. Has anyone questioned the mental state of this young man for him to do something so heinous in broad daylight, on school property? Similarly, the other young men who raped their classmate last year (whatever happened to that situation by the way?), where were they takin their cues from? These are young women at school, dressed assigned school uniform so it surely wasn’t their attire that prompted these attacks causing them to be raped and beaten.
Perhaps after being socialized to believe that a woman’s body is of no value, these young men see no issue with their actions. Perhaps after seeing adult males get away with many, many crimes against women and governing leaders and other authority figures inadequately deal with these crimes, the young men believe they too can get away with it. Maybe, just maybe, someone should look into the mental, emotional and social state of the young men committing these crimes and stop victim blaming. Our country is still ruled by organized religion and with every new crime raring its ugly head we can hear many people echoing the sentiments that “God is coming soon” or, “the Devil in this place.” Laughable statements as both point fingers at spiritual beings for the actions of men. Authority figures and some citizens spend their time blaming victims who they think are asking to be killed and raped and maimed just for existing and going about their daily lives. And if they’re not doing that, they’re blaming the devil for influencing the killers, especially if they are youths. “That boy have de devil in him,” is often muttered in conversations surrounding youth based crimes. But has anyone stopped to really consider the influence and power of the words and actions displayed by persons in authority and how they shape the thoughts and actions of the youth? The pastors, pundits, priests, imams, government leaders, and police department often purport themselves to be the authority figures that citizens should rely on, yet they are the ones contributing to the deterioration of society.
Trinidad and Tobago is currently reaping from the garden it has been sowing for many years. God and the Devil have very little to do with this. The people can pray as much as their shallow mouths allow, but without any feasible action being taken to right this wrong, nothing will change.
Featured Image by The Voice Raiser