Don’t shame and blame victims of gender-based violence

THE recent abduction and murder of 20-year-old Khanice Jackson has sparked national outrage. One of the questions that some people, both male and female, have been asking is, ‘Why would she take a ride from someone she was warned about?’

When crimes such as the murder of Jackson occur, it is not unusual for those seeking answers to ask questions. Whenever someone defaults to questioning what a victim could have done differently to prevent a crime, that is called victim blaming. Victim blaming is in some ways a natural psychological reaction to crime, and sometimes those who blame the victim may not always realise they’re doing so.

There are other questions that could be asked in such circumstances. For instance, ‘Why didn’t her mother, boyfriend or community members who suspected the man to be a potential threat go and talk to him or get him help?’

Khanice is dead and cannot defend herself, so pointing fingers will not provide any answers. Let us instead shift the focus of blame at the feet of those it truly belongs — the murderers, rapists and paedophiles living amongst us, whom we know, and do nothing to stop until they strike. On occasion, when they have struck too often, community “jungle” justice is applied.

Femicide has become Jamaica’s new trademark. Jamaica is unsafe for women and girls, and that is our collective responsibility. When we do not take action, we become accomplices to criminal acts. We are therefore all accomplices in the murder of Khanice Jackson and those of the countless women and girls who have been killed here.

What we should be asking ourselves is, ‘Why have we deteriorated as a society to such a level of brutality?’ That is an essential question. Additionally, there are steps we can take to prevent ourselves from becoming victims and accomplices and tell the rapists, murderers and paedophiles in our midst that enough is enough.

Things that DO cause rape, murder, abduction:

•Rapists, murderers, kidnappers .

Things that DO NOT cause rape:

•Drinking or drug use

•Clothing or make up

•Flirting or previous consensual encounters

•Accepting gifts from men.

Things YOU can do to not blame the victim:

•Call this what it is: A war on women and girls

•Call out the police for being reactive rather than proactive

•Demand legislative reform to protect us as a people.

Let us use Khanice as an example of what we should not allow to happen anymore. Let Khanice become the face of our return to humanity, to rightness and justice. Let each of us pledge to heal our society, to heal Jamaica of our collective pain, our collective brutality, our collective disregard for one another. Not another Khanice Jackson must be murdered on our watch.

Professor Opal Palmer Adisa is the director of the Institute for Gender & Development Studies Regional Coordinating Office (IGDSRCO), which leads the EU and UN-funded Spotlight Initiative programme in Jamaica. E-mail her at opal.adisa@uwimona.edu.jm.


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