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How Are Women To ‘Protect Themselves’?

Image of Souyenne Dathorne
PROSAF — Surviving Sexual Abuse In The Caribbean By Souyenne Dathorne

So, it seems that the only way for any woman to avoid being raped or sexually assaulted is to remain indoors at night and during the day, to dress without an ounce of flesh showing, to remain sober at all times, to scream and fight back when threatened, to remain quiet, to not invite him in — but then, also not to be too anti-social or paranoid; effectively she is to stay locked away and have no life but also to smile and be friendly.

We have in effect told women that they have the power to stop someone from sexually assaulting them, but we also tell them they are weak and fragile.

Women are constantly blamed for crimes committed against them. They are constantly told that the only way to remain safe is to do what it takes to ‘protect themselves.’ We don’t, however, ever educate men in understanding that ‘No’ means ‘No’, that ‘intoxicated’ means unable to consent, that ‘under-age’ means unable to consent, that they don’t have a right to any female’s body irrespective of the relationship or circumstance.

We make women feel guilty for crimes perpetrated against them telling them that they ‘could have done something differently’, that they ‘should’ve known better’, that they ‘should’ve done more to stop it’, that they ‘should be over it by now’ – or that he “JUST” or “ONLY” did one thing or the other.

We downplay the severity of the crimes committed against them and their reactions and responses following. We tell them they are over-reacting or being irrational.

We either don’t understand or prefer to act ignorant to the fact that sexual crimes are not about sexual gratification only but also largely about power, domination and control.

We preach to the female masses that this is something within their power to control, to stop if and only if they listen to what they’ve been told and follow the rules outlined. So please then, explain to me how the victims differ so much across the board; how do you blame a baby for being sexually assaulted?

If women are to blame for the crimes of sexual violence and it really is about sexual gratification, I eagerly await your explanation for all that is happening around us. The truth is that it doesn’t seem to matter what they are wearing, where they are, what they do, where they come from, etc. Rape isn’t something that the victim can do anything to stop, it isn’t their fault, there was no way for them to have known this would happen to them and there was nothing they could’ve done to prevent it.

I pose this question, How do you, the members of society insinuate that women can stop themselves from being raped? How do you blame them for the sexually violent acts perpetrated against them? How many more crimes of this nature have to be carried out before it becomes too much to bare and forces action? What more will it take before we understand the horror?

What will it take for us to want to do something to address the issues and help survivors? Or do we not see the severity of the effects of this crime? Do we not understand how a survivor/victim of sexual assault hurts for years, sometimes their entire lives, the dysfunctional families they came from, the sometimes dysfunctional families they begin, the nightmares, the triggers, the sexual dysfunctions they deal with, the body image issues, the self-esteem issues, trust issues, control issues, addiction issues etc.

We don’t understand and not enough of us take the time to understand what one who is sexually assaulted goes through. We prefer to pretend it doesn’t happen, that if it did, that he/she is healed, that if we close our eyes and wish it didn’t/doesn’t happen then it didn’t/wont’.

The time to be naïve has come and gone. We are faced with the harsh realities on a daily basis. Don’t fool yourself into believing because it didn’t happen to you that you aren’t affected or that you can’t fall victim. I don’t say this to scare anyone, but the truth is that any one of us can be a victim of sexual violence and if we are, we would want to be treated with care, support, understanding and validation.

We can’t expect it not to be in place today and then magically appear if we are affected tomorrow. We have to begin to put things in place from now. The harsh truth is that we all know someone who has survived sexual assault, they don’t trust you enough to share, they don’t believe that they won’t be blamed for what was done to them, they can’t rely on you to support and validate their feelings; so they suffer in silence.

We have become too self-possessed and closed off to the pain and suffering of others. I ask that you condemn and judge less and listen and support more. Survivors of sexual assault deserve that much from you.

We, at PROSAF, are acknowledging that many survivors feel a great sense of ambiguity about  their sexual assault; many are unsure what happened, how it happened so quickly, whether they brought it on themselves, and whether they could have done more to prevent it from happening.

Violence against women is never ok, it is a huge problem within St.Lucia and the wider Caribbean.

We are here to educate and validate your feelings about your assault. Trust yourself and your feelings.

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. Sexual assault is something that happened to you, it, does not define you.

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.

Remember that Sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them, 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, 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:

Email: ssaitco@hotmail.com – thepowerofone_v@hotmail.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)

Yours Sincerely,

Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence

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