TODAY’S edition of Face In The Crowd is a very sensitive one. So much so, that I would like to apply a small disclaimer to let readers know that the words of the subject might affect the faint of heart.
One of the points of FITC is to highlight the stories of the lives of random individuals…stories that would more than likely go unheard had they not been given this platform.
Rita William is a 35 year old mother of five who has admittedly lived a “loud” life where an impression of her has somewhat been “set in stone”. However, she has never been granted the opportunity to give her side of the story and show the masses why she is the way she is and why she does the things that she does.
William’s plight was brought to my attention after she hit a low point, one of many, as a result of her struggles with her teenage son with whom she has an extremely tumultuous relationship added to her daily struggles with society’s perceptions and judgments of her.
With a life of sexual abuse from the age of eight to bearing a son as a result of rape and living with the said child, William has had a massive boulder to carry pretty much all her life. Here is what she had to tell The VOICE about living through all the strife.
The VOICE: I was introduced to you through a mutual contact who thought that your story should really be heard and told. What is your story?
Rita: One of my main issues is being judged. A lot of people don’t know the circumstances of my first pregnancy that produced a son. They said I was with the man and I wasn’t, he raped me. Everyone knows him and what he does… he rapes young girls and always gets away with it. I don’t know if the police are his friends or whether people are too intimidated and scared to go forward to the police. I went to the police. However, I didn’t know that the officer was a friend of his and that they were from the same area. I took it hard with this child and I went through a lot of struggles with my son. I was in an abusive relationship at the time also and it reached a point where the child was taken away from me by social services because he was being abused physically by me. I used to abuse him because…nobody understands the pain that you feel when somebody that you have no feelings for takes advantage of you and you conceive a child for that person. He even said to me that he found me green and made me ripe…I was 17 years old at the time.
Not having a strong background growing up was even worse because I had nobody to support me and I had to do it on my own. I was in Form 5 at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School and you can only imagine how I was emotionally at the time. What killed me is that after all that I went through in life, Secondary school was meant to be my way of proving wrong all the people who said that I’d be nothing, and that chance was stolen from me. It was so close. Imagine, I went to my graduation six months pregnant and watching the other students go on stage to officially graduate and get their certificates, that made me cry so much because my belly was already too big. So I was just given my certificate but I wasn’t allowed to be part of the ceremony. And all that time, both parents and students were pointing at me and whispering but if they only knew.
I spiraled downward and gave up on myself because of that situation. I didn’t care and people don’t understand that a lot of things happen to you and they judge you without even knowing what you’ve been through. They call you all sorts of names in the book, they see you acting out but they don’t even know that you acting out because of what has happened to you.
If I wasn’t a strong individual, I Rita William would have committed suicide a long time ago because the thought has come to my mind. I have contemplated it but for whatever reason, I didn’t.
I was sexually abused as a child and not only by one person. My mother was an alcoholic and she would go out on her dates and come back with different men and when she was passed out, the men would come after me and as young as I was, I didn’t know better…I had nobody to go to. She sent me house to house and at each house, I got some kind of abuse whether it was physical or emotional abuse and every time I got a good home, she’d just come and strip me out of that chance.
I was eight years going to the Ave Maria school and we were asked to write an essay about a dramatic incident in our lives. And I wrote about an incident where I gave a graphic description of a penis entering my vagina. The teachers knew that this was not a made up story and that I was writing about something that happened to me. They pulled me aside and spoke to my mother. What do you think my mother did? She beat me and said I was lying so after that, anytime the abuse happened, I kept it in because if I spoke, the person who’s supposed to be protecting me is telling me that I’m lying. Who else would believe me? I was raised with a lot of that on my chest and I kept it to myself, the anger and rage, I kept everything inside
I have my son and I’m going to be honest. Many people don’t understand this and they say that I suffered to make him or that I raised him but what they don’t understand is that there is no connection between me and that child. As honest as I can be, I try my best but I don’t feel love or anything for him that I feel for my other children. I’m not trying to be wicked, it’s just that all how I try, I see his father and I remember all the chances that were stripped away from me…my chances to finish high school properly, go to college and to be at a better stage in my life. I’m not saying that he’s the cause or that I couldn’t have done something but again with no proper family support, no motivation, I stayed down there.
The VOICE: You admitted to abusing your son, during those times, what went through your head and why did you do it?
Rita: Honestly, I was just passing my rage and frustrations out on him because I remembered what his father did to me. What I did to him, I have never done to my other children. Once, I even went and put a pillow over his head. When I checked myself I was like “Oh gosh, I almost stifled my own child’ but I didn’t want him and if my mother again was supportive, because even the teachers told my mother that I should have an abortion. She refused to allow them to assist me…who wants to carry a rape baby? She said no and right now I’m the one struggling, I’m the one who has to face the child everyday plus she even told the child that he was a child of rape so he feels unloved. As much as I tried to raise him, I never wanted him to know how he was conceived. He’s acting out now and I cannot and will not blame him because I understand why he’s rebelling…he never got the love that he needed and feels like a rejection but again, it’s not my fault…I try but the feelings are not there for him.
The VOICE: Were you ever penalized for your treatment towards him?
Rita: No. because I went to Social welfare and when they found out about the situation with how he was conceived. They kind of understood what I was going through with him so they did not charge me or take me to court but they took him away from me and they put him in foster care.
The VOICE: What is your son’s relationship like with your other children?
Rita: They talk to each other because they always see him. As I said, he’s just rebelling. I know people see me as a bad mother because of this and wonder how a woman can carry a child and raise him but feel nothing for him but it happens. I could have left him at the hospital or given him up but at that time, the process of doing that was long and social services wasn’t doing too well so I tried my best to do what I had to do.
The VOICE: Do you think that the state could have done a better job in protecting both you and your son and that you both were failed?
Rita: Honestly, I think the social services themselves are overworked and they don’t have the manpower that they need to do their job properly because there are lots of cases in St. Lucia where all sorts happens like incest etc. One day I sat there and I heard so many cases and I was like “wow”. They have a lot on their plate so I can’t blame them. Also, there are problems like they would take the child and send him to a house worse than yours. My son himself is a victim of the situation. I’m a victim but the child is the real victim because 1. He didn’t ask to come into this world. 2. Due to the circumstances, the love that he was supposed to receive was not shown to him.
The VOICE: What feelings do you have for your son?
Rita: Honestly, I have no feelings towards him. It’s a sad confession and I wish it was different but I have no attachment to him. If something happens to him, I will be there for him, represent him and defend him if anyone tries to hurt him but the bond…like before he speaks to me, I snap, he irritates me. He feels like a stranger and so I treat him like a little brother rather than a son. I don’t do it deliberately but it’s the psychological effect from the rape and the torment that I faced from his father. I know it sounds bad and a lot of people will not understand.
The VOICE: To the people judging you for the personality that you portray, what do you wish to say to them?
Rita: At one point, it was eating me…I was going down because I didn’t care, all I knew was sex and that’s the effect that sexual abuse can have on you and people don’t understand. A lot of them call the young girls on the street “Jamets” but I don’t talk bad about them or look down on them because a lot of people don’t know what these children are going through at home…sometimes they’re being abused at home and the way they react on the streets, that’s just their way of expressing themselves and looking for attention but we need to look deeper than that, we have to find out what’s going on. I was abused and I was so rowdy on the streets when I went to CCSS. I was always aggressive and ready to fight so before we judge, let’s try to understand what people are going through. You might see someone looking happy but sometimes they are being hurt and abused. Also as parents, we need to speak to our children especially the girls. We need to explain to them about life and don’t hold anything back because when you hide things from them, they become naïve and people take advantage of them. Always be open and explain what the good touch, bad touch and any touch is, so they will know and that they should speak up…if the parents don’t want to believe, they should go to the police.