GREAT BAY- “I initiated an organization called The National Institute for Promoting Responsible Fathers back in 2006 to look at the issues of fatherhood within my country, and by extension the Caribbean,” says, Behavior Change Therapists, Wendell De Leon, who will be the keynote speaker at the Fatherhood Seminar today, 6pm at the Harbour Village.
He spoke about fatherhood, the effect of lack of involvement and domestic abuse at the University of St. Maarten, and continued, “As Caribbean fathers we are very unique – unique in terms of the issues we are experiencing, and to some extent our lack of involvement. If we look at just the issue of historical trauma where the fathers have been socialized to remain distant from their children, because they couldn’t be involved during the times of slavery, hence they would’ve been transferred to another plantation or in some other way removed abruptly from the presence of their children. They couldn’t have the child as theirs – the child was the property of the plantation – and that in itself is traumatic.
And though so many years have passed, the state of involvement has been passed down generation to generation. Some people don’t even know what it means to receive a hug from their father or to have their father say that they love them. But we have been breaking away from that particular mold. Now, within recent times, there’s much more of the predominance of fathers being openly affection towards their children – which helps, because we have the emotional intelligence playing a greater part, and if you build a child’s EQ, the child’s performance and ability to do well will soar. And when a father isn’t able to do that, he’s negatively affecting the child’s wellbeing and development.
If fathers are not involved, they set a precondition for how the child will continue to make choice and behavior in their later life. The ability of young men turning into responsible men, and the choice of what kind of man young women will want to be with are both directly impacted by the presence or absence of a father in the child’s life. Some fathers can be in the home, but that doesn’t mean they’re involved, however, being accessible and available does – but a lot of fathers don’t take their time to do so.”
“As a therapist, it used to be harder to get men to come to sessions, and the only way I could’ve gotten them to come is to ask the woman to tell him that I need help for you and I need him to support it. He will come. And we are seeing a shift where men are actually coming for help. We see a lot of issues coming out of trauma,” De Leon says.
A behaviour change therapist with over eighteen years’ experience, as a clinician he specializes in psychosocial issues related to relationship development and management at the couples, marital and family modality. Behaviourally, he presents a clinical focus on supporting personal change and development. Other primary areas of interest include domestic and family violence, parenting, father and child issues, youth and violence, persons living with HIV and trauma intervention and management.
“If an individual is experiencing trauma, for example, a child’s parents separation, that can be very traumatic for the child and the child may start smoking, avoid the classroom until their performance drops, starting hanging around with friends on the block. So the child starts doing all these things they were told not to do, because the child is traumatized and doesn’t have a good coping skill. Eventually, the child may develop an antisocial behaviour, becomes aggressive, and a person who would be prone to develop domestic violence tendencies.
One of the things you grow up to learn as a child is trust, and that is taught by your parents. Now let’s say you go to the mall with your parents. They allow you to run around, and as you play, you keep looking to see if they’re there. However, if they’re not there when you come back, you become frantic until you see them again, and then when you do you hold on tight to them. When you grow up, and your partner says he/she is going to the grocery store, you become very much possessive because you don’t trust your partner and think they might leave you. You’ve learned from your earlier experience, and gain abandonment issues. Therefore you become overly possessive, unhealthy for a relationship, and a potential abuser.
Domestic abusers are not something you can pick out from the crowd. You can’t wrap them up in a little bag, put them in a corner, and say they’re not fit for the society. That same individual is somebody’s brother, father, uncle, etc. and the child who’s depending on this particular man to be around is not benefiting from the person’s absence. What we need to do is identify the perpetrator, remove the victim and help them, but also provide support to the perpetrator and rehabilitate them, help them understand that abuse is not okay, and that they can be able to fix themselves in order to get back into their children’s life.
We need to be able to fix the issue so people can co-exist. We need to start re-educating, re-advocating, and creating awareness so that we can reach a society out there who wants to make a difference and put an end to domestic violence.”