Her name is Shantell Whyte
The news read “24-year-old woman, shot to death by lover.” There was brief outrage that lasted as long as the length of the video that circulated on social media – mere minutes. It’s a story that has become all too familiar in the Jamaican society. As soon as this “outrage” wore off, people began to speculate on the reasons that could have led to this “man” shooting his alleged lover. In less than 24 hours a voice note started making the rounds on social media, seemingly in a bid to clarify and justify why this young lady was shot three times in the head. The number 1 narrative – women cause these things on themselves. It’s the kind of narrative that one can expect from a nation that is as violent and as abusive as Jamaica, especially toward women.
The 2016 Jamaica Women’s Health Survey reported that “more than one in every four Jamaican women between the ages of 15 years and 64 years of age will, over their lifetime, experience intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence.” Let’s put that into perspective; over 25% of Jamaican women, in their lifetime, will become victims of sexual or nonsexual violence from their partner. For every four women you interact with daily, be it family members, coworkers, church sisters or friends, at least one of them has been and/or will be subjected to violence at the hands of men.Chantell who was allegedly romantically involved with her murderer, was accused of cheating on him. Isn’t it ironic that her murderer was allegedly married to another woman and had his own family? Social media though, was buzzing the day after young Chantell’s death with theories abound and ‘character assassination’ attempts; because murdering her body was simply not enough, her name also had to be obliterated.
As a nation, we coddle murderers, rapists, abusers and pedophiles, while constantly blaming and berating the victims. “She shouldn’t have worn that skirt” then what about the woman raped, who only wore ill-fitting clothes? “She too young and gwaan like she a ooman” forbid the thought of holding an adult male responsible for his pedophile ways. “Him send har go school and she get big and find odda man” are we actually justifying a man murdering a woman because he didn’t receive any return on his “investment”?
The thing is, we have long equated money to power and control. Those that have the money, controls everything and everyone who benefits from said money. Women become nothing but a piece of possession like any property, automobile or equity in a company. The men expect a return on their investment, usually in the form of a lifelong partner with all of the domestic perks marriage and long term cohabitation comes with; women, carrying out their wifely duties.
In a lot of the situations similar to Shantell’s, the public become privy to only a fraction of the things taking place in the relationship. We get to hear about the fact that her man invested in her education and in fine form, she goes off with another man – usually perceived to be from a higher ilk than that of her spouse, the investor. What the public never becomes privy to though, is the life that this woman usually has to endure; the violence and verbal abuse. The complete disregard for her feelings, her likes and dislikes. We are never the wiser, because women can put on a face for so long; we only know that she goes to university because of her man and she dresses nice and is well taken care of, by her man. Her scars don’t always show, because they are covered in foundation. They stay hidden because they are not always physical. Women go through a lot living in a society dominated by men in every single way, but that’s not enough; even in death, let us take more from her.
With a culture that perpetuates male entitlement, where women are mere possessions, men are free to discard them as they please with little to no outcry, outrage or justice. What’s even more telling is that women also side with these murderers and abusers – Let’s call this the “Stockholm Syndrome.” The Stockholm Syndrome can be defined as a captive identifying with and becoming empathetic to the their captors. Using this term loosely, in Jamaica, our women have gotten so used to abuse, that they identify this as a normal way of life and in some cases become empathetic with their “captors” (perpetrators of violence and abuse towards women in this case.)
Compiling lists that advise women on the different ways that they can avoid being killed or abused, oft by women, are counterproductive when the main source is not being addressed. It is akin to treating the proverbial symptoms, as opposed to the sore. The two are not mutually exclusive, but the main point of emphasis cannot be to advise women on the dos and don’ts in order to not become victims. Let’s treat the sores, let’s hold men accountable for these acts of violence toward our women, let’s implement social intervention strategies for our boys. They need to be taught that women are not possessions and should not be treated as such.
Shantell was someone’s daughter, friend and sister.
Written by: Jason McPherson
Photo Cred: Sexual Abuse Program