Shirnella Monrose’s story starts on a sad note, but thankfully, the ending is different. After living in chains for a long time, the 29-year-old is finally free and she’s never felt better.
“I feel like running through the wind,” she said giddily.
We were sitting on a bench at the Derek Walcott Square on a lonely Monday. The weather was perfect and Monrose smiled as the sunlight hit her face.
“It feels good after everything I’ve been through,” she said.
As she walked me down memory lane I could only imagine the pain she once felt.
“I was raped by someone who was very close to me when I was in primary school. I loved to hang out with my friends and when my mother sent me to school, I used to go and lime in different places. Nothing happened to me when I went out, but one day all of that changed,” Monrose revealed.
“That day it was late and I didn’t want to go home because I got a lot of beatings. I was young and I wanted to have fun; I only thought of the beatings I’d get afterwards. I decided to sleep by my friend because I was scared. When I went there, he told me what he wanted and I said no,” she explained.
Her friend turned on her instantly and she realized she was staring into the eyes of an enemy. She was dumbfounded.
“It was raining that day, I could never forget that and that’s when he told me that I would have to leave if I didn’t agree. He was older than me—I gave in because the beatings I got were horrible. I wasn’t being disciplined with belts alone, you see,” Monrose said.
Life changed right before her young eyes and her view of the world was tainted.
“Someone accused me of making up the whole thing and threatened me. The person told me that I’d pay for what I did because the guy went to jail eventually. I told myself that if I ever had a girl, I’d have to do everything I could to try and protect her,” she said with a sigh.
This time, she was holding back tears.
“I never told anyone what happened,” Monrose said a few minutes later.
But she didn’t have to, her teacher knew.
“When I went to school I had blood on my uniform, I wasn’t tidy either. That’s when my teacher realized something was wrong. The teacher brought me in the principal’s office and the principal took it from there. She really stood up for me, she called the police and she also called my father,” Monrose explained.
“I was afraid but that’s the only way I could have shown people what happened to me, that’s why I went to school this way,” she added.
According to her, she would turn things around if she could.
“I blame myself, I cannot blame anybody else because if I had just listened to those people who were giving me good advice when I was younger, maybe that wouldn’t happen to me,” she stated.
“I’ve always wanted to share my story because I don’t want other young girls to go through the same thing. I just want to tell them to listen to their parents when they ask them to be home by a certain time because you can never tell what will happen. Disobedience can lead you in the wrong path; sometimes your own friends can set you up,” she explained.
Monrose is moving on with her life and she has placed the past behind her. She’s forgiven her attacker and encourages victims of rape to do the same.
“When he came from prison he came to me and told me that he’s sorry and I forgave him. That’s how I started speaking to him again. You have to do it for God. Sometimes people carry grudges but that same person can save you later on in life, I’ve seen it happen,” Monrose said.
She vowed that she would never be raped again.
“When I was around 22 years old, I was going to see someone and a guy grabbed me and tried to rape me. He had a hammer but I fought my way out of it and afterwards I made a promise to myself that this would never happen to me again,” she said.
Monrose has been through a world of hurt but now she can smile.
“I’ve been through so much. There was a time when I was in an abusive relationship but I got out. Later on in life, I experienced more disappointment and that one hurt the most. It was too much for me to bear and that’s when I thought about taking my life,” Monrose explained.
“I just wasn’t alright inside. I was going to hang myself in a sour orange tree and then my son called me. He was around two years old at the time. When I looked at him, I just forgot about everything and I went back,” she said clearly relieved.
Monrose wants persons to know that there is always a way out. Suicide is simply not the answer, she said.
“Sometimes you just have to close your eyes for five minutes or ten minutes and open them again. You have to think because you can regret it whilst you’re on that rope and by then it might be too late,” Monrose said.
“Give yourself one more day or three more days, you never know how things can change because God really helped me. You have to turn your back on the rope. Go for a walk; sometimes by the time you get back, you’ve already changed your mind. I came close and realized it wasn’t worth it and in the end God would have judged me for what I did,” she said thoughtfully.
For a long time, it seemed like Monrose was on the losing side, but these days she’s happier than ever. Now, all she wants is a cleaning job.
“My mother struggled a lot. I came from a poor home in Marchand and slept on the floor in a candlelit room. Our house had holes and we had to try and hustle to bring two or three bread home. It wasn’t an easy road. I went to live with my aunt after some time and she always told us that it’s important to have a skill in life so even if you don’t have an education, you can survive. She used to make us do laundry, cook food, clean the yard, etc. so I grew up doing these things,” she said.
“I love cleaning. I’ve been looking for work for a while now but I haven’t gotten anything. Hopefully that will change soon,” Monrose said optimistically.
Hopefully, it will.