I thought I would dedicate this article to all the survivors around St. Lucia and throughout the wider Caribbean. I know that being a survivor is difficult in our society. I know that deciding to seek help and support seems like a daunting task. I know that many of you struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, self-loathe, anger, trust, betrayal, etc. I know that many of you have trouble with intimacy and with your various relationships. I know that many of you have decided to never speak about what was done to you. I know that many of you have questioned why everyone keeps suggesting that you need to or should forgive your abuser. I want you to know that these feelings, thoughts and questions are all normal. Know that the decisions you have made will be what you have decided you need to do to get you through each day; there is no need to apologise or explain.
For each of us, what is needed to make it through the day will be different, but it will be what we need right now to continue to survive. Acknowledge what it is you need and don’t be hard on yourself. Survival from sexual assault, contrary to popular belief, isn’t something that you just get over; it isn’t something you walk away from unscathed. The physical scars may disappear, but the psychological ones are constantly there, they are reminders of what was done to you. Know that as you travel through your healing journey, what you need to get you through the day will continuously change. Congratulate yourself on the good days and learn from the bad days. Both types of days will be part of your healing journey.
As survivors, it has become second nature to question and scrutinise every aspect of your life and those in it. Your inherent desire to protect yourself and those close to you is more heightened. That is understandable. You have lived through a traumatic experience and your desire to spare yourself and those close to you from falling victim to that pain is understandable. But I want you to sit back and give yourself some credit for how far you have come. Many of you have remained silent for years and have continued to be the rock for so many others around you, you have gone on to achieve great things and in many ways, have not let your abuse dictate your path in life. Give yourself some credit for all you have lived through and where you are today.
The pain that you feel when thinking about your assault will come and go; it will vary in intensity over time. Understand that it takes time to heal and that the journey through your healing will be painful, retriggering and difficult. There will be times when you want to give up, when you want to pretend that it never happened, when you want to believe that ignoring the pain will be easier. There may be times when doing those things will help but it will not be a lasting solution. You are allowed to heal on your terms, at your pace. Know that what was done to you will not, nor does it and in many cases has not dictated your path in life. As Survivors of sexual violence, you have been stronger than you give yourself credit for, as children who have been sexually violated you are more resilient and tenacious than you give yourself credit for. Many survivors of sexual violence have become conditioned to unwillingly accept or openly reject compliments and recognition for the strength it took to get to where they are. Every now and again let one of those compliments slip through your tough exterior. You have done a remarkable job and have come a long way, in many cases on your own.
It is my hope that soon enough we will change the atmosphere around sexual violence so the survivor/victim is no longer made to feel like the criminal in her/his attack. Let us begin to place the blame; at the doorstep of the individual/individuals who decided they had a right to infringe on the personal space of another human being. I am challenging you all to educate yourself on the issue of sexual violence and do your part to help eradicate it, to help create an environment that is more supportive and less judgmental to victims/survivors of sexual violence. I am asking that you sit with the discomfort of accepting that people you know are child molesters, rapists and abusers, once you get past that, be willing to hold them accountable for their actions. The pervasiveness of the crime of Sexual Violence continues to flourish because too many of us are willing to ignore the signs and turn a blind eye. Remember we are all connected, we all have mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, fathers; I would hope that none of us wants to see them violated. By not holding an abuser of this crime accountable you leave the door open for him/her to abuse many more. Abusers don’t discriminate when choosing their potential victims. Sexual Violence crosses every race, age, social class, sexual orientation and relationship type. It is our public duty to see this issue is addressed immediately. Survivors need your help. Sexual Violence should not be taken lightly; the damage done is lasting.
Survivors of sexual assault need a supportive environment to begin the healing process. They need to believe and feel that they are part of a culture that doesn’t support individuals who commit sexual crimes. We have to be the difference we want to see in our country. We have to be willing to start to make change. We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear, feel free to contact us. Remember that Sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them, and it is something that was done to them. Survivors, Victims, Thrivers remember you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman/child/man who has suffered a trauma through no fault of your own. You are not guilty of any crime, something was done to you against your will Sexual Assault is something that happened to you, and it does not define you. You are worthy of love and happiness. Always remember that you are not alone, that you have nothing to be ashamed of. We are taking the baby steps necessary to make it better for all. KNOW YOU HAVE A SAFE SPACE IN PROSAF. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us at:
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – email@example.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (under construction)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991(sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel)