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A Supportive Environment Necessary For The Way Forward

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

WE live in a world where bad things happen and many people prefer to turn a blind eye rather than face and address what is happening in our society.

As a society, we have perpetuated the cycles of Sexual Violence as we have not done enough to address the issues over the years.

Sexual assault has been recognized and dealt with as something that doesn’t/couldn’t’/will not happen, to the average man/woman/child. When it does, many decide not to acknowledge what has happened to the victim, often by blaming them for the crimes committed against them.

By not acknowledging what has happened and what is happening, we leave survivors and victims fighting a battle on their own. We fail many by not educating them ahead of time and then later by not being able to support them after they have been victimized. We re-victimize them by blaming them, by insinuating that what they thought occurred, actually didn’t and that they are in some way being unreasonable, blowing the situation out of proportion, or that they are confused or misunderstood by their assault.

Forced/Coerced Sexual Assault is something that happens very often in St. Lucia. It doesn’t matter who you are, who your parents are, what you do, where you live or where you have come from.

There is no discrimination when it comes to who falls victim to sexual violence. More often than we would like to admit, the crimes committed against us are by people we know and trust –someone we let our guard down with.

Pretending that Sexual Violence doesn’t happen, or that it didn’t happen, will not help the survivor. It will not make the act of forced/coerced sexual violence disappear.

Ignoring doesn’t make the crime disappear, it doesn’t make the damage caused to the survivor any less real, it doesn’t make us feel any safer. What it does is let the perpetrators out there know that they can get away with crimes of sexual violence. It lets them know that as a country, we don’t value our people enough to care what happens to them. It lets the perpetrators know (or feel) that sexual violence is accepted in St. Lucia. It lets the perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence get away with murder.

An individual who is sexually assaulted in any way, shape or form dies on the inside the moment it happens. What happens after decides how much life is breathed back into them or how much is ripped away.

As part of the steps forward in 2019, we have to be willing to acknowledge that sexual violence exists — but not only that it exists, but also that it is a huge problem.

We have to be ready to support those who have been victimized — and by that I mean actually ensuring that we have trained counselors/doctors/police officers/nurses/etc. and specific places for victims/survivors to get help and support; that we are educating our youth and the public on what happens during and after sexual violence; that our laws are reflecting a zero tolerance where this crime is concerned.

We have to create an environment that doesn’t judge but rather supports survivors. We can’t honestly continue to believe that survivors cause their abuse any more than a homeowner causes their home to get robbed.

An individual chose to commit a crime — regardless of what the victim is wearing, doing, saying, etc. It seems ridiculous to me that we would blame an individual who is victimized for the crime committed against them.

It is hard to accept that someone we know is a rapist, pedophile, but it’s the truth — and the quicker we accept that, the quicker we will be able to support survivors/victims of sexual violence.

Sexual Assault is about power. No one asks to be forcefully sexually assaulted. No one wants to be betrayed by those they expect to protect and be there for them.

Ignoring what happens when one is sexually assaulted perpetuates the cycle and only allows the wound to magnify.

The way forward is to understand that sexual violence is a problem that needs to be addressed immediately from a number of different angles. The way forward is to provide a supportive environment for those who have been victimized and are being victimized.

Those who have been victimized” know that you have done nothing wrong, that this was not your fault. WE HAVE TO WORK TOWARDS CREATING A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT IN ST. LUCIA.

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, it is something that was done to them.

Survivors, Victims and 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,
SouyenneDathorne and Velika Lawrence

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