Features

Considering Confidentiality

By Jayashri Nataraj

SEXUAL violence has woven its way into every fabric of our lives. Our children are often faced with the prospect of having to deal with it at school, on the road, on the bus, etc and very often they attempt to handle it on their own, or are afraid to tell us they. Where do they go to get help when they feel violated, who do they turn for support and guidance? Often it is a friend first and then maybe a school counselor. The story that follows belongs to all of us, we have all experienced something similar in some form or fashion. Many of us fear what others think of us being victims of sexual violence, whether we are or not, that coupled with the fear of seeking help often results in many deciding to suffer in silence. To further add, many students seeking help find the counselors office to public to move forward. We have all grown up in a culture where seeking help can be frowned upon, if students are to use their counselors they need to believe and feel comfortable in the space, currently many do not. The story that follows below, is one we can all relate to in some form or fashion, which may make it difficult to read. If you feel Triggered at any point put the article down, there is no need to force yourself.

Submission:
Today I’m going to the counselors’ office to pitch my idea for the anti-bullying initiative. My proposal is met with enthusiasm and so in the coming weeks, I visit the office almost every day to put the plan into action. There is a girl I often see at the counselors office, who usually has her appointment after mine. She seems pleasant, but is in another division of the school, so I don’t really know that much about her.

It’s Monday and on my lunch break I’m eating a sandwich in one of the kisoks, when I overhear a group of second years talking at the other end of the lunch table. I gather that they’re speaking about the gang rape that happened over the weekend involving students of the school.

“But I mean, you sure the girl didn’t want it?”, I hear one of them say, and the comment makes me angry, but I’m not sure who has said it. I’m still trying to be discreet about eavesdropping, despite them speaking so loud, that students in the labs a few yards away can hear every word.

“Don’t say that!”, I hear another chime in, “I don’t know the girl but I heard she was a good girl”.

“Well maybe, but to me, you have to have some serious issues to even find yourself in that situation”, the first one says, “That’s why we have guidance counsellors in the school, I guess. More girls should be using that service so that so they don’t do nonsense like that with themselves”.

“But I spoke to my homeroom teacher and I think she said that the girl is going to the counselor now to get help”,someone else in the group adds.

I’m disgusted by the conversation of course, but I’m trying to focus on my sandwich. A few more bites and i’ll leave to go eat somewhere else. That’s when I realize they’ve gone quiet. I look up discreetly to check if they’ve left, only to see everyone in the group staring at me. There are seven of them, five girls, two boys.

“W-why are you looking at me?”, I say. I’m trying to sound brave but I feel extremely self-conscious.

Everyone is silent at first until one of the boys in the groups laughs and says,

“My girl, I eh mean anything by it uh, but to me I’m always seeing you going to counselors’ office”

The girls in the group start to laugh.

The other boy next to him seems to feel embarrassed for me and tries to address what his friend had said, “Peter, why u sayin that? If the girl was raped then I’m sure she doesn’t want anyone to know that. Plus I don’t think that’s the girl. My teacher said she was a short and fair-skinned, that girl is tall and dark-skinned”.

I can’t believe this is happening. In this moment, I have a million thoughts of which I’m unable to form into sentences. My body is moving on it’s own and i feel myself stand up from the bench and begin packing up my lunch and hastily tossing it into my bag. I don’t really know where i’m going or how i feel exactly. All I can think is that I need to get as far away from these people as possible.

“Woy, you see you. You get the girl vex,” one of the girls mock.I don’t even know how I feel so I try to ignore her.

The boy who spoke first adresses me again,

“Asiay my girl, if you know you not the girl the fellas f***, then don’t be vex”

This time I know how I feel. I’m angry. I feel angry. And i’m finally able to say something,

“Excuse me? You don’t get to tell me how to feel after everything you’ve been saying! All of you are insensitive and should really just shut up!”

I’m painfully aware of the attention my outburst has just attracted. Everyone is looking. In my peripheral I see chemistry students leaning over the laboratory balcony witnessing the spectacle.

The group doesn’t say anything for a while as they’re probably taken off guard by me standing up for myself. I’ve finally gotten everything into my bag and I turn to leave trying to walk out of the kiosk as quickly as possible. I realize i’m not in the clear yet when I hear one of the girls shout something at me so loudly, I feel like her voice has made the ground shake,

“F*cking bitch,It’s you they should’ve raped to make you understand yourself!”

I walk faster. My heart is racing. My throat burns and my eyes sting from trying to blink back my tears.

For the rest of the week, this is all I think about. I don’t run into that group again, but everytime someone looks at me for more than a few seconds I’m afraid that only one question is going through their mind: ‘is that the girl that was raped?’

I go to the counsellors office for the last time on Friday to give a lame excuse for why I’m dropping out of the anti-bullying project. After the meeting I walk out of the office feeling guilty for letting my fear of other people’s opinions stop me from making a positive change in the school.

As I’m about to leave the building, I see the girl who usually has her meeting after mine. Just then, I remember how the boy in the kiosk had described the victim of the gang rape; short and fair-skinned. I hate myself for noticing how this girl fits that very broad description. I hate myself even more for only realizing now, that the school’s location for making a counselors appointment, is at a desk in the middle of administrative hall, where anyone with eyes can see you and make assumptions about your reason for being there.

End of Submission

We were hoping to help you understand the difficulty experienced by our youth who struggle as we do. We are hoping that you will see the need to put more thought into where the counselor’s offices are located. Our children and their suffering are no different than ours, the subject may be different but they are dealing with their struggles and need our help to ensure than they feel safe and secure reaching out for help.

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:

Yours Sincerely,
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence
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)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *