Updated: Jun 7, 2021
In previous blogs, I wrote about the pervasive and negative consequences of domestic violence in our societies.
Today I wanted to delve a little deeper into the topic, so let me set the tone for this blog a little.
In many of my other blogs, there is a social quotient I constantly re-emphasise: the two-thirds statistic. The fact that two-thirds of Solomon Island women and girls have already experienced domestic violence from an intimate partner.
I’d like to contextualise things here, following on from my series on The Real SOE in Melanesia, and ask a few questions to provoke some thought on the subject.
Firstly, of course - these opinions are my own; and I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist.
I am simply a daughter of Melanesia, who feels that these subjects must be touched.
#1. Who is the real perpetrator of GBV, here?
The issues occurring in our sister country, PNG, aside - here in Solomon Islands, particularly in this post-RAMSI era, we look to the police to solve many of our social issues.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force, or RSIPF, are bound by the law to serve and protect citizens and public property, as well as uphold the law.
However, when we speak of sensitive social issues like gender-based violence (GBV), the police and social workers can only intervene, as is their constitutional duty, to a certain extent and within the set guidelines of our laws and constructs. They are public servants working within set parameters - an example being the enforcement of the 2014 Family Protection Act.
In many instances, their involvement goes as far as responding to complaints and an initial arrest of the perpetrator of GBV.
Actually carrying out the arrest, to booking the perpetrator however, is a whole other issue.
In my experience, enactment and enforcement operate on two different levels, here in Solomon Islands.
What does perpetrate actually mean?
It means to allow for something to continue by either siding with it, or never actively advocating against it.
With this definition in mind, aside from the initial culprit, is the perpetrator of GBV also then:
The spouse that dropped the charges?
The arresting officer, who then became the mediator, trying to solve the domestic issues?
The family - trying to help their children fix their marriage issues?
So many blurred lines!
I think, it’s gone too far and is a little too late, when it becomes a police case. Personally, I feel that this situation needs to be addressed at the root.
And what is the root? The root of this, in my opinion, is the family unit.
The family unit that raised either spouse - and the family unit that these spouses have now created together, through marriage.
I think what really needs to be addressed here, is ensuring these family units not only have and maintain healthy communication between each other; but that any generational trauma is addressed and dealt with, in a healthy and non-confrontational environment.
#2. What triggers GBV?
There is strong evidence base, that inter-generational trauma (when trauma from a previous generation filters into the next) affects the generation that inherits it the most.
As alluded to in a separate blog, I feel there is a direct correlation between how many psychologists there are in our country, to the importance placed on the mental health of a society.
What am I saying? I’m not only saying that we do not place enough emphasis on the mental health of our people here in Solomon Islands; but I'm also saying that addressing GBV starts with us.
Given the brutality portrayed in the media, and particularly surrounding Jenelyn’s death (as the most recent case), one would think the reactions would only be anger and condemnation for the perpetrator.
This sadly, isn’t the case. There are men (and women!) out there who support the perpetrator; who believe that he was justified, on the basis of our cultural normative beliefs, in his actions.
If this isn’t a stark enough example of the pervasiveness and downplaying of violence in our societies, I do not know what is.
The root of this issue stems from the normative belief that shapes and perpetuates our understanding of gender roles and values in our societies. Violence is the weapon used to dictate the parameters of these normative beliefs.
We must consciously make the decision to stop perpetuating the negative examples set before us by older generations.
As the young mother to a son, I’m terribly afraid of him growing up in a society of the future, that shows public disdain for women. As a woman, this infuriates me! And as a mother, it hurts my soul to know that as much as I can instil a certain ideal in my baby - that society has the potential to warp it, in future - or when I am gone.
I refuse to let this dissuade me from my belief that we can still collectively fix this.
For one, we can stop perpetuating (intentionally, or not) damaging gender stereotypes. Get your son as involved in domestic duties, as your daughter. He will one day leave your home and start another. Are you sending a slave, or a master, or an equal, to the future?
When we instill in our youth that those pervasive, misogynistic ideals of a woman being submissive of a man (ergo, a man’s property to do with as he pleases) are incorrect, we address the issue of GBV in our homes.
There will then be no perpetrator, no victim, no respondent - and the police would not have to be involved if we addressed this issue at its root.
Which brings me to my next question.
#3. Is our culture perpetuating GBV?
I’ll allow that this may be different for the diverse cultures we have - so I will speak for my own. My Melanesian and Micronesian cultures, as rigid as they seem to be in other aspects, never did promote violence against women.
I hear and see people today trying to use their culture - and the lens of a patriarchal society - as an excuse for the way they treat their women. This is wrong and should never be a means to justify your actions, in any circumstances.
At the very least, it speaks less of you as a person, using your culture to right your wrongs; and at the very worst, you perpetuate a negative connotation of your culture to the rest of the world. What a definitive shame for what should be your crowning pride, responsible for shaping the person the world sees!
If we are to solve the issue of GBV together, we must first take ownership - I’ve seen Dame Meg Taylor speak on this, in PNG - and a lot of her speech resonated with me. We must take ownership, because it is our shared burden and by taking responsibility for this social issue, we are already taking a step towards tackling this issue together.
We must teach our children (both girls and boys) how to resolve their issues face to face. We must teach them to respect each other, to set healthy boundaries - to never physically lash out, when frustrated. We must teach them first as role models, when they are young enough to watch and mimic our behaviours; and when they are old enough to learn, by frankly discussing the issue.
The blame cannot be placed on our police, or even our social workers, when we know full well that we can address this issue as a collective from its root. From our own family units.
The Two-Thirds Social Quotient
It’s been said that our children are a message we send from ourselves to a future we will never see.
Are we, as a collective, teaching our children right from wrong?
Are we building a foundation they can use to foster a strong moral compass?
If we cannot fully say yes to these questions, are we not then the perpetrators of GBV?
Does that sting? I hope it does - because all domestic violence really translates to, is this: violence in the home.
When we address it in the home - before it festers and rears its ugly head through the violent outbursts of a young, unhappy and angry man (or woman) - we know we are directly addressing it, before it gets out of hand.
Will the 'two-thirds' social quotient still be a reality in my child's future?
Re-frame our social quotients!
If we cannot teach them, raise them.
Raise little warriors that understand the brutality of the two-thirds statistic.
If I do my part, I know that at least my son will know what it means to be an honourable man.
If I know my sisters and my friends are doing the same with their little men and women, I know we as a collective are thus raising an honourable next generation.
Yes, we are all frustrated at the social trends and indignant at the negative portrayals of our region in the media. But when we turn that frustration into invoking tangible acts, such as those I’ve outlined, in our own homes - we become the ripple.
And together, we become a force to be reckoned that can turn this tide.
What do you think?