I CONFESS: Proud of you women for speaking out
I AM PROUD of the people who are marching and speaking out about violence against women. It is time this happened. For too many years girls and women have had to be quiet about being abused. But no more. At last there are organisations and people interested in helping afflicted women.
Thank God for that!
Of course, things are not going to change overnight. But with more people coming forward to denounce this wickedness, maybe things will change soon. After all, too many lives have been messed up by this.
A lot of girls and women get abused but they don’t say a word because of who does it to them. It is rarely a stranger. It is often a relative, family friend, or their mother’s or relative’s man who visits or lives at the house.
I am sure if most women in Barbados were not embarrassed to talk, they would likely reveal how, on at least one occasion, someone they know tried either to seduce or force them into an intimate situation.
For females like me who grew up poor in overcrowded houses where brothers, sisters, cousins, and sometimes the neighbour’s children slept in the same room, being molested was and – most probably – still is a constant danger.
That is why something must be done to relieve poverty by ensuring people have opportunities for a sound education and securing a job after they leave school. This way they can work for themselves and better their circumstances, and their family’s.
Proper housing must be a priority too. The situation where six, seven or more people live in a two-bedroom house is not good enough. Yes, it is the responsibility of those who get so many children to take care of them.
But it is well known that there are social, economic and psychological reasons why the poorest people tend to get a lot of children. That is why Government needs to put policies in place to assist people in helping themselves.
What does all of this have to do with abuse?
When a young girl is born into poverty there is a greater likelihood she will be seduced or forced into sexual situations at an early age. That is my experience.
I grew up in the 1970s in a heavily populated St Michael community where many people were not employed on a consistent basis. Most of the men worked in construction but there weren’t many projects going on so money was tight. That led to more deprivation in my area. It also gave rise to a lot of quarrels, and sometimes fights, between couples, as well as tensions in families.
I grew up in that environment. I slept on foam on the floor. I shared it with my younger brother. In that same room my two older brothers slept on another piece of foam, while my parents occupied the other bedroom.
When I was around nine years old a friend of my older brothers tried to touch my private parts one night when all of us were lying down. As he jumped me up, I shouted out and my brothers stopped him. I told my mother and after that I slept on the floor in my parents’ room.
The week after I had done the 11-Plus exam I stayed home because my little brother was not feeling well and my mother could go to herthree-day a week job at a hotel. A friend of my older brothers passed by and as they were not there he gave me a lot of talk.
Then he started trying to kiss and fondle me. When I resisted he slapped me hard and I began to cry. Afterwards I just stopped struggling and let him touch me up. Lucky for me he did not get a chance to do anything worse as my eldest brother came home. I never told anyone about that, but from then I always avoided being around him alone.
Weeks later, during the vacation, my brothers went to the sea while mummy took my little brother to town with her, so I was alone at home. The same fellow had to be watching because he came over shortly after I moved from the window when my mother got into the bus. He pulled the side door which was usually unlocked and just walked in.
I tried to fight him but he gave me a cuff in my stomach and told me to take off my clothes. After that he put on a condom and just did what he wanted. He was 16 at the time.
I told my mother about it and she complained to his mother who gave him a beating. Though that didn’t change the fact he had raped me, as far as they were concerned that was satisfaction enough.
After that, whenever I was walking by myself, some fellows in the area would try pulling at me and telling me how they hear I sweet. I complained to my brothers. They made the harassment stop by telling the fellows not to trouble me.
Being raped and the harassment afterwards made me hate men and dislike sex. For years I also had major issues trusting people, especially men. I used to be totally indifferent to them and saw them as people to be used. I did not respect them in any way.
What changed my attitude was when I was on a course and became friends with the other women on it. We became friends and started going to picnics together. It was at one of these that in chatting I realised what I went through was widespread.
Out of the group of 11, two were raped while five others had to fight off such advances from either family members or their mothers’ partners. Another woman and I were raped by neighbours and two others never went through anything like that.
This is why I commend any move to fight violence against women.