Why men abuse women: No clear roles being taught to boys
Fr Harvey explained that with today’s rapid pace of change and development, it is not too certain what role society wants men to play.
Fr Clyde Harvey has worked tirelessly with young men, counseling them and in many ways being a father figure to them. He believes in this 21st century there is no particular model to emulate when it comes to the socialisation of men. Harvey was speaking to the T&T Guardian during an interview at The Church of The Holy Rosary at Park and Henry Streets, Port-of-Spain. He was commenting on the issue of domestic violence and why men abuse women.
Harvey explained that every era socialised its men for that particular time, but today where there is a rapid pace of change and development, it is not too certain what role society wants men to play.
“Every society prepares men for the tasks that it wants men to do. Medieval times wanted knights, priests and fathers, so that is what most men aspired to. The problem with our time is that we are unsure because of the rapid pace of development and change and the increase of knowledge. As a result of this, the signals aren’t too clear on what men should aspire to become,” said Harvey.
He said there was a tremendous upheaval now, where roles that were once exclusive to men were now open to both genders.
“The problem is much deeper than just dealing with a few men. We have a societal problem which is made all the worse because of the rapid pace of change and the marginalisation of men generally in the society, where we see women are getting more jobs, and it becomes much more difficult for a man to find himself in a society where he is constantly being overshadowed by his own sense of failure, or by the success of his main competitor. So how do we bring that together?” he asked.
Harvey believes with regards to marriage preparation, a lot more time has to be spent on helping couples to see what they bring to their relationships in ways that do not threaten them. A big part of domestic violence, he says, is about a man feeling insecure and threatened.
Young men raised without fathers
He said it was very normal long ago for a man to understand what his role was in society, and in most instances, he fashioned his lifestyle after that of his father’s. But today, he said, many young men are raised without fathers, following the examples of mentors who may not necessarily be great ones. So most boys are socialising themselves based on what their environment is offering. Piggybacking off of the advice he received many years ago from Belize-born, Trinidadian doctor Geoffrey Frankson, Harvey said the community will decide what a father is, not the individual male.
Asked if there were basic principles to follow in raising a male child, Harvey said although people believe this to be so, it is not that simple.
Violence stems from early environment
On the question of men being violent, he says that stems basically from their early, formative environment. “By age five, children are usually set in their ways and particularly in their ability to deal with their creative situations. If they experienced hostility during this time, then more than likely, they, too, will exhibit signs of hostility at their older stages,” said Harvey.
He believes that early childhood centres, in partnership with parents, can play a major role in improving the mental and overall development of a child.
“Early childhood centres are fantastic. But what are we doing in them? It’s one thing to have them, but when we make it seem as if the least competent of our people can work in them, we are sending a message that it’s hopeless. Your best teachers should be in your early childhood centres. These centres have a societal role. They will have to become centres of healing and centres of creative exploration....They are vital to the whole future of education, and to the future of male-female relationships. How people are socialised before age five is critical,” he said.
“Training of teachers and social workers is paramount. Teaching is not about certification. It ought to be about the formation of human beings.”
It begins in the womb
Going back as far as in the womb, Harvey said because of science, we know now that babies in the womb are affected by what they hear and feel coming from the outside environment. “I often ask myself, the amount of noise in the society and particularly the type of music young mothers have to deal with. What is happening to these babies?” he asked.
He said another factor was the use of drugs like marijuana. According to Harvey, although an expectant mother may not herself be a marijuana user, the environment in which she lives may have those that do indulge, and a child growing up in a marijuana environment can develop what he terms secondary marijuana psychosis.
Previous research has found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can induce symptoms of psychosis in healthy people and worsen psychotic symptoms in people already experiencing them. Long-term marijuana use is also associated with an increased risk of schizophrenia, according to the study. These things, he noted, can affect a child’s mental health.
“I am often enthused when I hear of schools that are supposed to be “bottom of the line” engaging the children in magnificent programmes that the children are actually excited about, because in a lot of our schools the children are not excited about the existing programmes and they will tell you that when you speak to them, especially the boys.”
He also commended former national security minister, Brigadier John Sandy, on the fatherhood programmes he tried to develop during his tenure. He also praised the Massy Group mentorship programme for young men. “I think the former minister saw clearly the need for those programmes. I am not sure what has become of them, but the Government can certainly embark on more of those programmes,” said Harvey.
Give boys responsibility from early o’clock, believes the priest. Harvey said anybody who has been given responsibility can learn from it and rise. But when parents pander to the “I don’t want to do it” response of youth, the youth then become irresponsible, believes the priest. “A lot of boys in the home are socialised not to be responsible. Most times you would here a mother saying: ‘Okay, you don’t want to do it, then that is your business, you just like your blasted father.’ But if we teach them responsibility, they will become responsible young men,” he said.
“I have had young men who walked into my church who have never been in a church before; they have no sense of a place that is sacred. They don’t know, and somebody has to teach them, and more importantly, somebody has to be patient. Because you are not going to correct eight years of malformation in one week,” Harvey advised.
VIOLENCE IN THE FAMILY
Violence in the family, and especially violence against women, plagues our society. The Guardian is running articles looking at different aspects of the problem.
The first, published on Monday, April 20, by Shereen Ali, looked at how we are raising our children, and especially our boys, through a one-on-one interview with Errol Fabien, who argued that the whole T&T culture is plagued by violence, with diverse causes including bad parenting, historical brutality, and a lack of any meaningful, impactful emotional/sexual/values education for teenagers in schools.
Today’s instalment by Bobie-Lee Dixon looks at how we are raising boys, and whether we are socialising boys and men properly. Dixon interviewed Father Clyde Harvey, a Catholic priest and counselor of young men. Fr Harvey argues for better relationship counseling, effective early childhood centres to offset impacts of poor parenting, more creative values programmes for school students, and the active teaching of responsibility to boys at home.
“I think that while there is a vision of a man being the head of a household, that is not a universal principle, that’s part of the western tradition where we have made it seem as if it is a Christian tradition, but it is really more western than Christian.”
Published in the Digital Guardian Tuesday 5th May 2015