MURPHY BROWNE (Abena Agbetu)
Tenants of a Scarborough apartment building were traumatized at the sight of an eight-month-old baby girl hurtling through the air, apparently thrown from a 4th floor balcony at around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 5. She landed on the concrete pavement and was soon followed by her two-year-old sister, who landed on the grass, and then by their mother, also allegedly flung off the 4th floor balcony by a 27-year-old-male.
Some reports indicate the family had recently moved from a 12th floor apartment. Photographs of the apartment with a shattered window pane and a curtain caught on its jagged edges appeared in several Toronto newspapers.
The shattered window pane has caused some speculation that the eight-month-old might have been thrown through the window, and not off the balcony like her sister and mother. The seriously injured mother and two babies were hospitalized. The man who allegedly threw them off the balcony, although he reportedly leaped off the same balcony, was uninjured.
Newspaper reports indicate that when he was confronted by police, he attempted to grab one of their guns. He was arrested and appeared in court, charged with three counts of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault, one count of attempting to disarm a police officer and two charges of resisting arrest.
Growing up in Guyana many decades ago we were told: “A boy who hits a girl is a coward.” Many men understand that hitting people who cannot physically defend themselves (e.g. women and children) is wrong, but some do not.
What drives a man to physically abuse the woman who has borne his children and to physically abuse those children? What goes through a man’s mind as he takes a helpless child and allegedly tosses her off a balcony or through a window?
Do abusive men learn their behaviour from observing their fathers, other male relatives or men in the neighbourhood where they grew up?
Do men who abuse their partners and their children deserve/need condemnation – or help?
Will these children recover from their physical injuries and, if they do, will they carry emotional scars?
Domestic violence, abuse of women and children, cuts across class, ethnicity, race and religion. However, since artists’ sketches from the accused man’s court appearance has identified him as African Canadian, the racists are online with comments including: “This family lives in a rental apartment in Scarborough…isn’t that where most of our immigrants move to when they arrive?” and “Have you also taken a look at the drawn picture…looks like an immigrant to me.”
While this family is suffering and needs help to cope with the trauma of domestic abuse which led to life-threatening injuries, the White supremacists are out with knives drawn ready to inflict more pain. The many instances of White men inflicting horrific abuses on their families are ignored. The lives of poor people, especially poor and racialized people, are always open to the scrutiny of White people who make judgments based on their White supremacist mindset.
The recent case of the family court judge in Texas who mercilessly beat his 16-year-old daughter, unaware that she was videotaping the beating, is just one example that domestic violence cuts across the spectrum of humanity. The judge was shown to be beating his daughter so viciously that a warning was placed on the video about graphic content.
The judge cannot be charged because his daughter only recently released the video online and the statute of limitation has run out.
Explaining why she remained in the home after her husband brutally beat their child, the mother, who in the video seems to condone the beating, said: “I lived in an environment of dysfunction and it steadily got worse. I did leave him… but he shamed me into going back. I was completely brainwashed and controlled. I did every single thing that he did. When I leave the room he is telling me what to say, what to do.”
Many women remain in abusive relationships out of fear that the abuser is all powerful and they would never be able to escape, or fear that they may not be able to survive on their own.
Some African-Canadian women live with their abusers for years fearing the involvement of government agencies like the police, the Children’s Aid Society and even immigration, depending on their status in the country. Women without status may face the choice of living with an abusive, dangerous man or involving authority figures with the power to separate them from their children, either by seizing the children or deporting the mother.
Some of the abusers are so charming that the woman does not realize what is happening until she is deeply involved; living with the man, married, or has children with him. In many cases, people outside the home are shocked when the abuse is made public because the charming face presented to the public is very different from the face seen by the woman and her children in the home.
Women need to be aware of the warning signs that may identify an abuser before becoming irrevocably entangled and bringing children into a relationship. People who work with and support abused women agree that the controlling, jealous man is a potential batterer, even as he professes love. The first slap or punch should never be ignored in spite of seemingly heartfelt apologies and promises that it will never happen again. Some of these predators are extremely cunning and can hide their “cloven hoof” (Guyanese expression) until it is too late. These two-faced creatures are adept at hiding their violent side until their victim is well secured; only then does their prey see the predator’s true face.
When the violence happens in the privacy of the home it is different from when it spills over into the streets, the workplace or the schools the children attend. In many cases, it is not until the abuse spills over into the public realm that the victim is believed. The young woman in Texas who was brutally beaten by her father commented after the video was made public: “People are believing us now, instead of calling us liars like they have in the past.”
Sometimes, women remain in abusive relationships because they think their “love” will rehabilitate the abuser. It is not the woman’s responsibility to rehabilitate her abuser who believes he is doing nothing wrong. In the case of the Texas judge, after the video was made public, he shamelessly rationalized: “In my mind I have not done anything wrong other than discipline my child when she was caught stealing. I did lose my temper, I’ve apologized. It looks worse than it is.”
These abusers should be held responsible for their behaviour. Some of these bullying cowards think it is proof of their “manhood” to have children with more than one woman and make no financial contribution to their children. The only contributions they make to their children’s lives are fear and stress when the children witness or are subjected to physical and verbal violence.
No one should be subjected to a violent partner. There are many signs that a relationship is abusive. The most obvious is if you live in fear that you may say or do the “wrong thing” which will trigger a violent episode where you and/or your children might need medical attention.
If this is you, seek help!