Letters & Opinion

2020 – Fresh Start- New Beginnings

“As a society we need to ensure that survivors of sexual violence have a supportive environment to begin to heal from the trauma that was inflicted upon them. As a society we need to ensure that people feel safe coming to our country lest we become known for being a place where sexual violence is rampant and ignored.”

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

PROSAF would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy New Year. Last year we ended off talking about reflecting on where you are and where you have been and creating a plan for 2020. I would like to pick up from there. Before we delve into the article, I would like to remind you that there may be parts of the article that may cause flashbacks or triggers; there are parts that may bring back buried/forgotten memories. Should you start feeling anxious or scared, should your body start to shake, should your breathing start to increase rapidly, please take a moment, and put the article down. Give yourself some time and then decide what you should do next. Don’t push yourself to do something your body is telling you it isn’t ready for. Our articles are always available but what is of prime importance is learning to put what you need first and learning to trust yourself to listen to the queues your body is giving you. What you have survived is traumatic; your body has found ways to cope with the trauma over the years, but as you begin your healing journey, the ways you coped in the past may no longer work for you. This week I’d like to discuss planning for the new year, for the new you, for the new steps you are about to take to make you better; the new boundaries you are about to create, and all that you are about to learn. I would also like to discuss not only what is needed for you to personally grow but what is needed for us, as a country to grow and begin to acknowledge and address sexual violence in St Lucia.

Our last article asked that you reflect on where you were as 2019 came to an end. We asked that you create a plan to begin to either start your healing journey or to continue on with your healing. The last article suggested that you catalogue what you needed to make the New Year a better year for you, a year where your healing was priority. We asked you to be honest with yourself about how you have been coping, how you have been dealing with the trauma you survived and then making the decision to start making changes, big or small, it doesn’t matter, only that you start. So the first question is, were you able to reflect on where you are and what you need and then create a plan of execution? If the answer is no, I understand; it can be scary reflecting on where you are, thinking about how you have coped, what you have done to keep getting out of bed and how much you may have even had to pretend you are okay. I know it is difficult, so if you were unable to go through with it, I understand and there is no rush. If you started but were unable to finish, I know it can be draining, scary, angering, triggering, and you did the right thing by listening to your body and stopping. Remember there is no rush, your healing journey is not a sprint; it takes time and requires patience. For those of you who have started, while you continue to reflect and plan (as this is an on-going process), always be mindful of your body, it will always let you know what it needs, when it has reached its limit and when you need to be gentle with it. Regardless of where you are in the reflecting and planning stage, be kind to yourself. Remember trauma is not something we openly discuss or understand, which means that more than likely you have been navigating this on your own. Trust yourself, don’t rush or push, be mindful, listen to your body, create safe spaces and support teams to help as you either prepare to start your healing journey or as you continue to navigate the healing journey.

Lastly, I wanted to address what is needed as a country to begin to change how we address and help survivors of sexual violence. As a country, we need to acknowledge the issues of sexual violence. We need to discuss rape myths and explain why they are myths. There are many myths used as excuses to justify sexual violence and blame the victims/survivors. We need to ensure that as a society we are aware of our rights, that we are aware of the laws as they pertain to sexual violence. We need to ensure that as a society sexual violence is not treated as a woman’s issue, because it is not. Both men and women are victims/survivors of sexual violence and both men and women are perpetrators. The only way to change and make any progress is to address sexual violence as a ‘people issue’; we are all affected by sexual violence regardless of what we would like to believe. As a society we need to ensure that survivors of sexual violence have a supportive environment to begin to heal from the trauma that was inflicted upon them. As a society we need to ensure that people feel safe coming to our country lest we become known for being a place where sexual violence is rampant and ignored. We can continue to sell St Lucia as a great tourist destination but it will not matter how beautiful we are if people are afraid of being victimized here and then their abusers never punished. We should not continue to ignore how rampant sexual violence is or the damage it does. While we would like to hope that ignoring it will make it disappear, sadly that is not how it works. So this year, let us task the Ministry of Health, Gender Relations, Social Transformation, Human Services, Family Court, The Crisis Center, Ministry of Education, Vulnerable Persons Unit, The various NGO’s, the hospitals, the schools, the courts, the prisons, the counselors (and anyone I may have forgotten) with being more demanding about how we begin to address sexual violence. Let us be more demanding and direct in how we educate, how we punish, how we rehabilitate, how we counsel, how we educate, and how we police the topic of sexual violence.

As we start the New Year I want you to work on figuring out your way forward. I want us to work on creating, educating, discussing, and implementing a more detailed plan for addressing sexual violence. As professionals in our various fields, it is up to us to ensure that we create a better, safer, more educated, more understanding, and more human St Lucia. As a survivor I want you to know that you have survived a traumatic experience, and that it doesn’t define you. I want you to know that you are strong… stronger than you give yourself credit for. I want you to work on acknowledging how you survived and have been coping, own the good and the bad; there is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember you did what you needed to survive. Let the reflection be your guide forward. Let the plan be the path to happiness and self-love. Let the plan be your guide to freedom. Let the plan give you a chance at controlling your life and living it on your terms. Decide to begin 2020 with your goals and dreams as the driving force behind your actions. Know that no one truly understands what you have survived and what you need to heal. Know that the decisions you make for you are the first step to feeling empowered. Know that the path to healing is crowded with others on the same journey. You are not alone. Know we are here to listen and help. We are all walking a similar path, not the same but we all understand on some level your pain. You are not alone; I know it often feels that way. But know you are not. We are here to listen. Call if you need to vent, if you need company to just be on the phone. We are here to help. Text, email, call, you are not alone. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of, you were violated. You don’t have to keep secrets you don’t want to keep to protect anyone. You don’t have to let anyone into your life who doesn’t understand or support you. Should you want to discuss or ask a specific question don’t hesitate to ask. Please don’t give up. Contact us at ssaitco@hotmail.com, thepowerofone_v@hotmail.com, or call 1-758-724-9991 (Souyenne Dathorne) or 1-758-723-6466 (Velika Lawrence).

Resources
Book: ‘The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse’ by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis

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