Features

Gender Equality – International Women’s Day

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

IN our last article, we discussed ME TOO and what that means to us locally. For me the first time ME TOO became a statement that stood out was after Xylaw and I first shared our stories in publicly in the VOICE Newspaper in 2011. It seemed like regardless of where I was, men and women were saying ME TOO, to acknowledge that they too are survivors of Sexual Violence. Many weren’t prepared to say more than me to, but in many ways they truly didn’t need to say more. There was an understanding that we were part of the same group, that we all walking the same path to healing. ME TOO creates a voice for all survivors of sexual violence; it says sexual violence is a problem, sexual violence hasn’t been taken seriously, it says that we should do more to address sexual violence because as much as we don’t like to admit it, the victim doesn’t cause the individual violating them to do so. As we continue on with this article, I would like to remind you that should you feel triggered please stop, take a moment and then decide based on what your body is saying whether you are able to continue on now. I want you to be mindful to both the subtle and drastic changes that your body may exhibit to indicate that it is under stress and needs a break. There is no shame in being triggered or in having flashbacks, or in becoming anxious. You have lived through a traumatic experience and your body and mind have been existing in survival mode. Your body and mind have been doing what is necessary to get you from one day to the next. There is no weakness in needing to stop or take a break. To the contrary, their is great strength realizing what your body needs and where it is. Being mindful of your body says that overtime you learnt your body better, that you are in sync with your body and mind and are fully aware of when you need to break and when you can continue on. There is power in being that in tune with your body. So please, should you feel triggered, start having flashbacks, have memories resurface, become anxious, take a moment, step away from the article and recenter before deciding whether you can continue or need to stop all together. The articles will be available when you are ready.

I know as a society it seems easier to blame the victim, to say that something they did brought on their sexual assault, that their attacker was literally rendered incapable of understanding boundaries, words, pleas, screams, body language, tears, physical resistance, NO, STOP, etc. It seems easier to accept that the victim forced someone to violate them, than to think that someone you know is willing to use power, dominance, anger, physical violence, verbal threats, psychological manipulation to violate another human’s boundaries and violate their body sexually. We excuse and we ignore and we rationalize and we justify the actions of sexual predators then we turn to the victims and say, you, you caused this, you are ruining this person’s life by sharing your story, you are making a spectacle of yourself and our family, You have misunderstood the sexually violent act you lived through. We create an environment where women are afraid to come forward after being assaulted for fear of being blamed, for fear of being told they misunderstood or caused or wanted their assault. Men are afraid of being called weak or have their masculinity challenged. They are afraid that they will be ridiculed if their assailant was a woman and their sexuality challenged if their attacker was male. We create an environment where disclosing sexual violence is difficult and scary.

My abuser was my half brother, and when I shared my story I was told that I was ruining his life, that I was being malicious, that it happened so long ago that I should have moved on by now. I was told I was holding on to the past, that I was letting my incest ruin me. He became the victim, he became the one that society felt sorry for. I use my story to ask why repeatedly our first response is to defend the abuser, why we feel that condemning the victim is the best course of action. I say this because as a woman in St.Lucia, I was made to feel like this was my fault and that I was being a silly little girl for not being able to get over it. DO we think that this is the correct course of action? What do you, society, individuals in our society need to happen before you truly acknowledge that sexual violence is a serious issue affecting too many females. ( I am not excluding men, but this week I am choosing to focus on women with international women’s day coming up on Sunday 8th March). I am hoping that some of you choose to answer this question via our social media or email as I am truly baffled that regardless of how the sexual violent attack occurred, we are able to find a way to blame the victim.

I speak as a woman, a mother, a wife, a survivor, a therapist, a friend, etc. Women have for many years not been seen or heard, they have been told to be silent, to be ambitious but not too ambitious or they run the risk of been called a list of not faltering names, to do as they were told, to honor, to sacrifice to believe that their place in the world is secondary. As a mother, a woman, a wife, a survivor, a therapist, a friend, a human being, I am saying that I have had enough of not been seen or heard, I have had enough of being boxed, of being judged, of being told what I should be doing which consequently usually equates to putting myself last. I am positive many woman can relate, we are expected to be a mother, a wife, a professional, a home maker, and still not be taken seriously because I am a woman. International Women’s Day’s theme is “Gender Equality – Realizing Women’s Rights For An Equal Future”, how do we plan to interpret the theme and put it into action? As a woman I am no less entitled to what a man is and should not have to live in a world where I am treated as less than. I know many of you will jump to point of the strides that have been made for women over the years, but I’ll counter that with are those strides enough? Should we still live in a world where we hear the comment that certain places aren’t ready for a woman to lead a country, or have attention drawn to the fact that a woman is leading a country(making it a special case). Do you want to continue to live in a world where woman are not given the chance to be rewarded for the work that they do, Where women are constantly displayed as objects to be used for beautification purposes but nothing else, where a woman’s input is accepted if it addresses beauty, but not if it addresses anything technical? DO you want your daughter to grow up in a world where she continues to fight the battle to be seen and treated as an equal? Or are you ready to change things, to actually say what needs to be changed and work relentlessly towards seeing the changes? I ask you to think of the world you want to inhabit, the world you want your daughters to inhabit in the future and decide to start the conversation about change. To create the plan for change and them to be at the forefront to implement the change. We are strong, intelligent and the backbone of the world that we inhabit. We have given out blood sweat and tears let us demand that we be recognized and treated as equals.

As I end off I would like remind you of a couple of things. 1) there is no shame in listening to what your body needs. If it says stop, stop. Trauma has changed you, yo are working towards healing which takes time and patience. So baby steps. You will learn to crawl, then walk, you’ll fall, you’ll get back up and then you’ll run. Baby Steps. 2) You are a survivor of sexual violence, a crime was committed against you, you did nothing wrong, you didn’t cause it, you are not to Blame. Ignorance comes in all shapes and sizes, so when someone walks up to you and blames you or tries to silence you for the crime committed against you, bid them farewell and walk away. They will not be of help to you or your journey. You need support and empathy, anyone in you life not offering that should be escorted out. 3) To the women: we have every right to be treated as equals, to be seen, to be heard, to be recognized and to be rewarded. We live in a world that more often than not, only wants to dictate what we should do, how we should do it, when we should act, etc. We are not helpless children, never have been. We hare the backbone of this world. We have sacrificed so much, it is time we act to change the future for ourselves and our future females. 4) to the survivors , I want you to remember that you have survived a traumatic experience but that experience doesn’t define you. I want you to remember that you are strong, brave, intelligent, resilient and worthy of being loved.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 send it in. Please don’t give up. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to enjoy the holidays, you deserve to decide who you let into your life and how much. Our contact info is below:

Yours Sincerely,
Souyenne Dathorne (724-9991), Velika Lawrence – Xylaw (723-6466), Miguelle James
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 (Up & Running)

Leave a Reply

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