Yesterday, I happened to press play on another one of those newly posted, awful viral videos via facebook; it was incredibly disturbing: a woman, somewhere in Jamaica, getting ferociously pummeled by a guy. He punched her about her face and body, screamed epithets while she cried and tried to get away, as he caught up with her, only to continue delivering his “lesson.” It was disgustingly painful to watch—but I did.
No one did anything for a while. Interestingly, two women—one seen in clear view of the camera and one heard from off-screen, are the first attempts to valiantly intervene. The video runs almost 7 minutes, punctuated by her guttural cries and the cracks of his hand against her skin throughout. The camera keeps taping. She picks up a cement block, it falls from her hand. In comes a guy with dreads for a fleeting moment, trying to pry the abuser off, then he too flickers away with no impact. Someone shouts something. He (dread-man) flounders. The abuser keeps on slapping and kneeing her in the stomach. And there is standard commentary in support of this scene, classic gems, like the camera holder saying: “Dada (the abuser) not wrong. Dada express how he feel. Any man’d a get mad—me’d a get mad and do di same ting too.”
Could there be a redeeming quality about the video? Not much. Other than depressing one further to the extent of the gender violence & the cultural acceptance of this violence & the rape culture in which we live, where girls’ & women’s bodies’ are expendable and are acceptable canvasses for male rage. A world in which a young woman you know didn’t even report a rape, despite your encouragement, because she knows “in the courts in Trinidad, I heard they drag the girl’s sexual history through the mud—and the place so small, I will never be able to get away from it.”
At my work, some of the young girls in my program still go on and on about how much they still love Chris ‘Breezy’ and how culpable Rihanna was in her own abuse. She looked for it—she got him mad, they often say to counter my points as I try (in vain) to show them that women & girls are not responsible for boys’ & men’s anger, or what they do to us. Men are responsible for what they do. But this incessant belief has wrapped around so many of their minds, so tightly, already.
My heart aches for this woman in the video. For the words that condoned, the laughter of some of the men and for that blasted man who just kept on recording. For the people who didn’t run up on the abuser more insistently, because it wasn’t their business, or they simply couldn’t. From the vast expanse of dusty unpaved “lane”, stray dogs and weather worn concerete of humble homes—you could tell this was possibly a community that one couldn’t easily jump into the neighbourhood domestic bacchanal. Same story, over and over.
And I am left wondering: what ultimate good is viral pain if you end up feeling so helpless and incensed in the aftermath? If all you want to do is either cry or entertain bloody visions of female vigilante justice? If you are pretty sure that this “Dada” person, eh go get charge for shit. Then I read Daniel José Older’s piece on men’s violence against women and the timing could not have been better. Additionally, there is this response by Blakka Ellis that I recently read in the Jamaica Star online. I was reminded how men are valuable participants (and need to be) in fixing domestic abuse, in re-working the frame through which they, and others imagine masculinity and how it’s enacted. In a strange way, I was given a small inkling of, hope. Sometimes, you just need a reminder especially when almost everything else you are viewing & reading, sure as fuck, isn’t.
Image cred: seen, re-blogged on someone’s tumblr.