QUITE often local talk show host Rick Wayne makes reference to the fact that 1 in 4 women in Saint Lucia have been sexually assaulted. Often, it appears that he might even be just throwing the figure out there to test the waters, but rarely, if ever, are his statistics challenged.
This is hardly surprising in a climate where it seems every person knows at least one person who has been sexually assaulted. Even more so at a time when it seems many people do not understand the severity of sexual assault, and this point is underscored weekly in a VOICE column by PROSAF (Positive Reactions Over Secrets and Fears), a local non-governmental organization. In every article that has been written by the PROSAF team over numerous years of contributing to the VOICE, they have stayed true to their mission, which is to create change in the area of how sexual abuse is dealt with, and create a safer, open and more positive atmosphere for survivors of sexual abuse.
PROSAF’s message is well appreciated, especially in a society where women are often not believed when they report assaults of a sexual nature. In fact, a not too long ago instance comes to mind when a local female politician stood up on platform and said she’d been sexually assaulted. Many people, women included, called her a liar and dismissed it. Hardly anyone wanted to hear any more about it, after all, ‘if it were true, why did she take so long to speak up about it?’
Those who take the time to find out more about this topic will find that many women and men who’ve faced traumatic situations, especially of a sexual nature, will not speak out about it right away for fear of being judged. Sometimes women go to the police to make official reports, or take these cases to court, but often the proceedings are dropped midway for fear that they themselves will be blamed for what they experienced, not be believed, or be forced to relive the traumatic experience in an environment almost completely devoid of compassion and understanding. Victims also fear for their own safety when coming forward, or reporting these matters to the police.
The bottom line is that we as a society need to pay more attention to the topic of sexual assault, and even sexual harassment, which many women experience walking through the streets of Castries, or in any other part of Saint Lucia. Some would say this has become a part of regular life, but when things get to a point where women are forced to cross the street, or be insulted for not entertaining vulgar remarks of all kinds about their bodies, then we are definitely well off course. It matters not that things like this happen in varying degrees in other parts of the world; it only matters what we are doing about it right here in Saint Lucia. Every member of our society deserves to feel safe when they leave the house, and this is something we shouldn’t let the madness of living in these times cause us to forget.
We at the VOICE take this time to commend PROSAF for sticking to this issue for so long, and others who have made useful contributions for the purpose of ending rape culture in this country, and encouraging an environment where women are appreciated, valued, and protected by requisite laws and an effective justice system.