Rape Victims: Twice A Victim?

By Joy Lynn

RECENTLY, I met, for the first time in years, a friend of mine whom I will call Alayah. After exchanging pleasantries, Alayah and I sat down to have a conversation and catch up on each other’s lives. I noticed that Alayah was a little more reserved than usual, so I asked if anything was wrong. Quietly, Alayah revealed to me that just a little over a month ago, she was raped by a known assailant in her area.

No, she was not walking the street alone late at night, she was neither high nor drunk, and she wasn’t half naked. In fact, it happened a little after two in the afternoon while Alayah was on her way to pick her five-year-old up from school. She showed me her scars and bruises and the multitude of doctor’s medication. She explained to me in great horrific detail the events that took place during and immediately after her ordeal. It was all I could do to hold back the tears, the hurt and the anger as I listened to Alayah describe the cutlass lashed to her throat and back.

She described the pain she wakes up in every morning due to the damage that was done to her womb and pelvic area. I listened as she told me how difficult it has become for her partner to trust leaving her alone for one second and how her ordeal has affected his work and hers as well. I listened as she told me about the mental and emotional distress she has been through in the past month, how she has lost weight and her hair has fallen out.

When I questioned Alayah as to whether the perpetrator had been arrested, she replied that he had not. According to Alayah, the police have claimed that there is not sufficient evidence to arrest the guy. This baffled me because Alayah says she was able to positively identify her attacker. She gave a statement to the police and so did an eyewitness. After the ordeal, she was photographed, her clothes and cell phone, which had been destroyed by the attacker, were taken in as evidence.

She was examined by a medical doctor and admitted to the hospital for one week. She has done countless ultra-sounds and other tests to determine the extent of the damage caused by the attack. She continues to see the doctor weekly and is on an assortment of prescribed drugs which she takes daily. Yet still, her perpetrator walks free and unharmed.

This led me to ask myself one simple question: Are we victimizing the victims of these assaults twice? There are many Alayahs out there. Most of them have the physical scars to show, all of them have the mental and emotional scars. Many of the perpetrators are still walking free, while the victims and the families are left to pick up the pieces.

Often, a baby is left behind, and the victim must raise that child, being reminded every day of their ordeal. If she chooses to have an abortion, she must face the stigma and discrimination as well as the emotional distress that come with an abortion. If she gives up the baby for adoption, she has a different set of stigma, discrimination and emotional distress to deal with.

Many victims of rape stay quiet due to the fear of being called a liar or being told that they looked for it. Some victims become “wild” and are then called all sorts of derogatory names. Some become sexually reserved or may even turn to same-sex relationships and then are persecuted for the lives that they choose to live. Some women may have bipolar-like behaviours and then society calls them crazy. Some women find themselves in a never-ending cycle of violent and abusive relationships after they are raped. Some turn to drugs and alcohol and are frowned upon by society.

As a rape victim myself, I can honestly say that dealing with the after-effects are not easy. A sense of self-worth is lost after these events. Years after I was last raped, I still have nightmares about my ordeal. Sex has become somewhat disgusting to me. I hate physical contact, especially kisses, even from my children and my partner. I find it hard to develop and maintain close personal relationships. It is almost impossible for me to trust anyone. I have become angry and moody and depressed. My family must already deal with those broken pieces. And then there is the shame from society, the way people look down on rape victims.

Many times, I have been told “What did you do? You must have done something to make men rape you”. The worst part of it is, just like Alayah, my attackers are all still walking free. I often pass them in the street, just like Alayah does, and relive those horrific encounters all over again. Just like Alayah and many others, I, too, must face the stigma and discrimination. Just like some girls, I was forced to drop out of school to carry my rapist’s child and although I love her, she is a constant reminder of what happened to me.

Years later, people still believe that I got pregnant because I was “hot” and “rude” and that I couldn’t have been raped because I was “raised in a good family”. The level of ignorance when it comes to rape education never ceases to amaze me. Today, it is difficult for me to obtain a job as a secondary school dropout with no CXCs. People have refused to help me because “you were such a bright girl” and “nobody sent you to have sex at fifteen”.

People like Alayah and myself are lucky to be alive, but let’s not forget the not-so-lucky ones like Giselle Georges, Valerie Lorde, Crystal Felix, Christal St. Omer, Chereece Benoit, Cheryl Hunte, Verlinda Joseph, Mary Radcliffe, Tricia Denis, and most recently Saadia Byron and countless others. Let’s stop the rape epidemic in our beautiful St. Lucia today.

For people like Alayah and myself, I beg of society: stop making us a victim twice. Please help us bring our perpetrators to justice. Stop looking down on us, we did not ask to be raped. No one deserves to be raped, not an innocent two-year-old, not the twenty-year-old prostitute, not the thirty-year-old virgin or the sixty-year-old grandmother. Let us teach our boys that “no” means “no”.

Let us rally around our rape victims and support them instead of tearing them down. Let us spread the message that rape is not okay. Rape does not only affect the victims, but those closest to them as well. Let us stop protecting the attackers and start protecting the victims. Let us help the victims to become the victors.

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