PTSD and other forms of Self Hatred among Africans and Caribbeans: Part II

| December 10, 2013
Scherin Barlow Massay

Social Anthropologist – Scherin Barlow Massay

In Caribbean culture news.

In the Caribbean, the emasculated West African man, once stripped of the responsibilities of proper manhood became nothing more than a labourer and sperm donor, as both men and women were dehumanised and sexualized.

The slave master’s breeding policies meant that men were farmed out to other plantations to have sexual relations with various women for the sake of producing more commerce and manual labour.

Women became baby-making commodities and it became the normal practice for women to produce children fathered by different men. African men in the Caribbean could not have much of an input, if any in raising their children.

Rapes, kidnapping violent assault, sexual or physical assault are actions that can cause post traumatic stress disorder. Sexual assault covers a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviours including; forced anal or oral penetration, inappropriate touching and fondling, forced kissing, and rape torture.

All sorts of deviant sexual practices were meted out to enslaved people. For the enslaved woman, rape was primarily a tool of racism, in which the slave master reinforced dominion over his property and increased his income by producing slaves that are more expensive to purchase because of their lighter colour.

Such violent acts not only affected those who personally experienced it, but also the people who witnessed it, as well as family members and friends of the victim. Psychological and emotional reactions to trauma manifest itself differently in men and women.

Photo courtesy messymandella.com

Photo courtesy messymandella.com

The human body works by internal rhythms, and for women the circadian clock activates different cycles on a daily, monthly and seasonal basis. Female victims of sexual violence often experienced changes in their circadian rhythms leading to changes in the menstrual cycle, depression and disturbed sleep patterns.

During waking hours, many suffered from heightened anxiety and frequent vivid flashbacks of the assault. In addition, emotional detachment occurred when women were forced into sexual liaisons with enslaved men with whom they were not emotionally attached.

Moreover, coupled with the physical pressures of gruelling work, inadequate diets, and poor sleep patterns, many women gave birth to pre-term babies. Dissociation and denial are part of the brain’s coping mechanisms against violent conflict and some victims developed a constant state of mental separation and denial in order to cope with the psychological and emotional chaos they were suffering.

Mood changes, being on edge and “on guard” at all times, were also symptoms that enslaved people experienced as well as feelings of anger, shame, helplessness, humiliation hopelessness, abandonment and fright.

The fragmentation of African masculinity, the rape of African women and breeding policies of the plantocracy became the foundation upon which familial societies were established for African people in the Caribbean.

Such a model became the cultural norm, as the legacies were perpetuated from one generation to the next, in “A configuration of learned behaviours and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society”. Linton R. (1945). Thus, the legacy handed down by the slave masters became a perpetual cycle of evolving behaviour and thinking patterns that were passed down from generation to generation.

See Part I

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