Sexual Violence in the Caribbean has been a taboo and uncomfortable subject for quite sometime now.
In some aspects, we acknowledge its existence but largely we prefer to exist in a space where crimes of this nature happen infrequently and only to certain kinds of people, people who in some way brought this on themselves.
As such, survivors of sexual violence haven’t been given a safe space to share their stories, they haven’t had a place to seek solace, proper care or support but most importantly, many don’t have supportive family members to help them address what was done to them or aid in their journey to recovery.
Being sexually victimized changes the victim in more than one way, we, society/family/friends, further damage them by letting them know that they can’t confide in their family members or friends or that what they are going through is trivial, something they should get over and the sooner the better.
We tell them what they have been through is an inconvenience for us, that what they are going through makes us uncomfortable. The message we send out is that they cannot trust their family and friends to listen and empathise with what they have been through or that after deciding to share what they have been through, their family and friends are more likely to ignore, criticise, downplay, humiliate what they have shared making the trauma of what they’ve been through even worse.
Many don’t realise or acknowledge what a victim of sexual violence has been through or what they are dealing with on a daily basis. The journey to recovery is a daily one; the challenges that have arisen because of their sexually violent experience/s are with them on a daily basis.
Many feel alone and guilty over something they could not control and this is in part due to the reactions of the those closest to them coupled with what their abusers constantly reiterated — THIS IS YOUR FAULT – NO ONE WILL DO ANYTHING, NO ONE WILL BELIEVE YOU, YOU MADE ME DO THIS, etc.
Many don’t understand the daily triggers that one has to deal with, the Post Traumatic Stress Symptoms that are now a daily part of the life of a survivor, or how painful it is having to face one’s abuser time after time knowing what was done and knowing that he/she walks freely and untouched.
We don’t understand what it does to a survivor/victim/thriver to know that after being defiled they have no-where to turn, that they have no one to look to for support.
We haven’t understood that when one is sexually violated and then left to deal with the ramifications on their own that this only further scars them, not because they are weak, but because carrying this burden is a hefty one and there are times when they need support, when they need an empathetic ear, when they need to be reminded that what happened wasn’t their fault.
I can’t seem to understand why an individual would chose a sexual perpetrator over their child, but it seems that is the case more often than not. Or why we would blame the individual for someone else’s decision to violate them. Parents, you are here to protect your children; children deserve to grow up and be children for as long as possible but being abused takes their childhood away from them. It forever changes who they are and how they view people.
Educating our children and ourselves about the signs of sexual violence is only part of the solution, but we also need to educate ourselves on how to deal with those who are victimised. Blaming, shunning, disowning them is not the answer. The one chance that is given to us to help them is often not utilised. We find it easier to persecute them after they have been through so much. It is time to start placing the blame where it is due, it is time to start ensuring that survivors are given the love, hope, respect and — that they need.
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, 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:
SouyenneDathorne, 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)