by Dr Neals J Chitan
On 5 March 2020, the European Union and the United Nations partnered to launch the well resourced “Spotlight Initiative” in Grenada, with the aim to eliminate violence against women and girls, a social plague that has inflicted our society for the past decades.
On that day, our Parliament building was lighted up for 7 days, showing our government’s intention to spot the light on these issues that ravage the souls of our sisters, and as an International Social Skill Consultant, I couldn’t agree more with the objectives of this initiative.
However, after working as an interventionist deep within the social fabric of Grenada’s homes, schools, churches, workplaces and communities, I must stand and be the voice crying in the wilderness for a ‘SPOTLIGHT” also on male issues that are wrecking the emotional and mental health of our men to the point of self-harm.
In her 10 September 2020, article “Police data reveals more males committing suicide,” published by NOW GRENADA, journalist Linda Straker cited data from the Royal Grenada Police Force which tracked suicides between January 2015 and August 2020 in Grenada. The results declared that there were 27 suicides over the 5-year period in Grenada, with 22 or 81.48% of them being males. And by the way, my files indicate that I have responded to as much as 10 male suicidal ideation calls in 2021, and just in the last 7 days, I have responded to 3 more male suicide ideation calls in this new year already, all involving relationships issues with women and girls.
Here we have 2 serious issues which involve males as victims and perpetrators, but we seem to be only putting the emphasis on empowering women and girls when, if the truth be told, up to about 97% of the violence and sexual assaults against our women and girls are perpetrated by disrespectful, damaged and dysfunctional males. So, where is the deliberate mind-rewiring strategy to rehabilitate the thinking, attitudes and habits of males socially and psychologically, if we really hope to seriously diminish violence against our women and girl?
There is need for a focused national ‘SPOTLIGHT” on male behaviour if we hope to stem the tide of violence and sexual assault against our females and save men from suicides. Using a simple algebraic method of identifying the known to discover the unknown, the most illiterate among us can identify the known factor in violence and sexual assault against our women and girls as male perpetrators. Now, if that is so, why then isn’t the multi-million Euros Spotlight Initiative specifically targeting male social rehabilitation when we do know that the vast majority of incidences of violence and sexual assaults against our females are done by males?
Do you think awareness campaigns alone will change the thinking, attitudes and habits of perpetrators? Not to be too critical, but do you really think having a bus driving by with slogans and logos on it and TV ads will change the traditional disrespectful thought processes of our males? I think not!!
As a Social Skill Consultant and Practitioner who has successfully engaged mind-altering social skill concepts (with emphasis on males) in schools, communities and prisons, I know the depth of engagement it will take to undo bad habits, attitudes and thought processes, and it will not happen by mere awareness campaigns. It will take dedicated target-focused strategies of engagement and captivating teaching methods with a social pedagogy designed to inspire, challenge and bring resolve at a prevention (school), intervention (community) and rehabilitation (prison) level.
You see my friends, empowering our women and girls to assert themselves is very important, but since most of the violations against them are perpetrated by males, to achieve maximum success and safety for our females MUST include changing the perpetrators as an integral part of the process. Despite the anger that overwhelms us when one of our women or girls are violated, if we are to create meaningful change, it will still demand from us empathy and sympathy for perpetrators who have been victims of anti-social male modelling, dysfunctional parenting, poor socialising skills, disrespect and who are victim of violence themselves.
Despite the intolerance we feel for violators, if we hope to change their thinking and responses, we will somehow have to use a caring approach. I have seen the power of such an approach as I engage males in curbside chats, community centres, schools and prisons across the world, as they realise that someone really cares.
Just a few days ago, I experienced that caring approach at the McDonald’s College (MDC) in St Patrick and loudly applaud the team that executed the best and most impactful mediation session I have ever witnessed in the over 200 plus schools I have worked in internationally. On Thursday, 20 January, I was asked to attend a meeting at MDC to deal with a Fourth Form male student who got involved in a confrontation with another student and impulsively inflicted minor bodily harm on him.
At that meeting were: Principal Carl Andall, District 2 Education Officer Marcia Francis, School Counsellor Sallie Palmer, School Chaplain Nigel Lindsay, Constable Laurie Williams (Virtually) and I, Dr Neals Chitan. The 16-year-old student perpetrator joined us, and I must say how impressed I was with the respect and care shown to this young man right from the start, despite his anti-social behaviour that caused hurt to another student. I listened as Principal Andall, in his effort not to negatively profile this student, started by highlighting the good traits of this young man and telling him how disappointed he was with his decision. District Education Officer Francis spoke to his heart in a caring motherly manner, getting him to realise the hurt he had caused to another student, while helping him to see the need for reconciliation.
As part of the team, Counsellor Palmer cut right in and focused him on his potentials and career choice, showing how such impulsive behaviour can impede his progress and earn him consequences that may not be good for him.
Then, after Constable Williams, Chaplain Lindsay and I gave our remarks, Principal Andall brought in 2 surprise witnesses, Ms Belfon and Ms Alexander, 2 teachers who testified of their good experiences with the young man and pleaded for a second chance for him. As we came to an end, Principal Andall outlined to him the goals of the school and the importance of carrying the proud traditions of McDonald’s College, but also reiterated his zero tolerance for certain behaviour.
Although chastised for his action, this young man left the meeting with a second chance and resolved to apologise to the victim, cooperate with school administration, finish school and pursue a career as an airline pilot. That’s exactly what I am talking about!! Hats Off to McDonald’s College for leading the way in restorative justice while empowering and challenging males to change.
Could it be that such care, respect and understanding for our males despite their anti-social behaviour can be the antidote to helping them find and respect themselves and our women and girls, thus dropping the suicide rate among our males, while helping to significantly reduced the violence on our mothers, sisters and daughters?
Something to think about as we move forward to celebrate our nation’s independence. Happy 48th Anniversary of Independence to all!! May God bless our nation.
Dr Neals Chitan is an International Social Skill Consultant and Crime Reduction Specialist who holds a PhD in Social and Behavioural Sciences and currently works in Grenada. He is the President/Founder of Motiv-8 For Change International a Toronto-based Social Skill Agency and can be reached from North America at 647-692-6330 and locally 473-416-8377 or at [email protected]