Deputy Prime Minister of SVG tells women - Dress properly. Don’t tempt men
Deputy PM and Education Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines makes incredibly outrageous and dangerous statements which essentially blame women and the way they dress for the violence perpetrated against them by men. This is the reason why violence against women is so rampant throughout the Caribbean: because we have a culture which tacitly excuses and tries to explain away the murders, rapes and beatings as something that women contribute to by the things they do, the clothes they wear, the places they go. As long as people feel they are justified and have ‘cause’ to ‘put women in their place’ this violence will continue.
“I want to ask our young women, in particular to dress themselves properly. I know that sometimes, their mode of dress is not good at all and it is important that they dress themselves and do not give temptation to our men.”
SVG: Deputy PM tells women to dress properly and not tempt men. She says that women’s breasts are intended to feed children and comfort their husbands. This hetero/sexist drivel was offered in response to the high level of violence against women and girls and femicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What do you think of the Deputy PM’s remarks?
Shattering the Illusions
Souyenne Dathorne is a 28 year old St. Lucian, and survivor of sibling sexual abuse. She is the founder of Surviving Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean - an online forum for women to speak out about their abuse, and co-founder of Prosaf - it’s sister website which is dedicated to dealing with sexual abuse and its effects on survivors as well as their families. Here she talks to Velika Lawrence, her co-founder at Prosaf about her desire to help other Caribbean women who are suffering in silence.
What is the main motivation behind Surviving Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean
Surviving Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean was created primarily to urge women to speak out about their experiences with Sexual Abuse. One of the main goals was to draw attention to the silent epidemic plaguing our Caribbean women; so many are taken advantage of sexually and nothing is done. I wanted women to feel freer to speak out, I wanted them to feel less alone in what had been done to them, and to know we are with them on their journey to recovery. So many victims/survivors don’t believe they have a voice. So many believe they are the only ones who have been through some form of sexual assault. I wanted them to know via our pages that this wasn’t the case.
What led you to pursue this project?
I think my desire to stop feeling like a victim was what pushed me to pursue this project. For many years I had told myself that I was past my experience of sexual abuse. I forced myself into believing that the sexual abuse suffered at the hands of my older brother was no longer a factor in my life. When I returned home (after studying in the US) and he did (as well), everything came back. It was at that point that I knew I had to deal with what had happened. It was at that point that I decided to start the facebook page to share my story and encourage others to do the same.
My greatest challenge was getting past people’s responses, or lack thereof. It was coming to terms with the fact that some would embrace him as the victim, and me as the villain. It was getting past the fact that not everyone would support my decision to speak out, or my encouragement of others to do the same. I have always been a persistent woman; knowing that once I’d decided to do something that I would do it, one way or the other. I knew that speaking out was one step on the road to recovery. It was telling him, and all the others like him, that I would no longer keep his secret, that what had been done to me was wrong.
As a survivor, how has this project changed your life thus far?
The major change (I have experienced) in undertaking this project has been having to face and address what had happened to me, how it has affected me, and the issues that have arisen as a result. It was accepting the shattering of all the illusions that I had created to get me through the past. I am still learning to accept that things were not what I thought, that people were not who I thought, and that the opinions, actions and reactions that I expected from those closest to me, did not play out.
The dawning of this project also meant that there were other women who shared their stories with me. It was hard to hear them suffer knowing that their options for help were so severely limited. That, more than anything has hurt. There is a desire to want to help, and knowing that the help is so limited was frustrating; knowing their support system didn’t provide support was angering. I have learnt how few resources we have available, how little people view this as a serious problem, how many are willing to turn a blind eye based on who the abuser is. Delving into the topic of sexual assault in St.Lucia and the wider Caribbean has been an eye-opener. I think this project has made me more passionate than I already was about ensuring things change, not only in St.Lucia, but in the wider Caribbean.
Who encourages you to maintain the mindset of a survivor & what does that mean to you?
There are primarily two individuals who have been a source of constant support and comfort through my decision to speak up and out and advocate for other survivors. My boy-friend Christopher Hackshaw, and in many ways someone I consider a second mother, Laura Lau.
I am glad that at the times when I feel crazy, overwhelmed and saddened that they are there to hold and comfort me. As a survivor of sexual abuse I struggle daily with trust, self-esteem, self-worth, sadness and the list continues. It has meant more than they will ever know to have them in my life; knowing they understand what I go through on a daily basis, understanding the pain and hurt that I deal with.
What are your short-term goals for addressing Sexual Abuse through Surviving Sexual Assault in the Caribbean site?
I would like to create a support center for women in St.Lucia where they can feel comfortable speaking out about their experiences with sexual assault. I would like to provide a place for them to learn about the resources they have available to them and educate women on the signs of sexual abuse so they can protect & help those younger than them.
I want to empower women so they know they have a right to say no. So they know that if they are assaulted that they have a right to seek help. I want to create a network within the Caribbean that provides support for survivors of sexual abuse.
The Feminisation of HIV refers to the increasing prevalence of HIV among women worldwide and the ways in which gender discrimination - both social and institutional- contribute to women’s increased vulnerability to HIV infection. In the Caribbean, women make up 53% of the population living with HIV. And young women between the ages of 15-24 have three to six times higher incidence of HIV than young men the same age range. High rates of violence against women; poverty and economic dependence on men; and cultural attitudes regarding relationships and sexual behaviour; all contribute to the increasing incidence of HIV among Caribbean women.
More women are testing. Some are initiating condom use at the start of the relationship. Many women are not reliant on men so this gives them the freedom to end the relationship if the man is unfaithful or if they believe that he is putting them at risk. I met a young woman last week, who ended the relationship because at the end of the sexual act she discovered that he had removed the condom during the act without her knowledge. Still, there are some women who would test ever year but go back to the same situation.
What “same situation”?
They are in a relationship where they know that the man is unfaithful, he does not or will not use condoms. He also does not believe that he needs to be tested or that his infidelity puts him at risk for HIV. The client will knowingly go back to this situation. A lot of the time the woman is ‘biding time’ either for the children to grow up, for her to get a job or for him to move on. There are also some who are in the marriage ‘till death do us part’ and test every six months. They say “He is my husband what can I do?” They hope and pray for a negative result and also for divine intervention.
In your counselling of HIV infected women, what are some of the most common stories you hear about how women become infected?
The most common story with HIV infection is that they trusted the other partner. Even though they started using condoms (at the beginning of the relationship), they stopped once they thought that they were comfortable with each other. So I tell clients that trust in HIV starts after both persons have tested maybe twice (baseline and confirmatory) depending on their situation, and stay faithful after. Another story is that the man does not like how the condom feels, and he looked ‘clean’.
What does ‘baseline and confirmatory’ mean?
The “baseline” test may be the 1st time the client is testing, or the first test after their unprotected sexual encounter. If this test is done today, it will tell us the client’s HIV status 3 months ago. Any unprotected sex they had in the last three months would not show up in this test, therefore the client would need to be tested again (confirmatory test) 3 months after the last time that they had unprotected sex.
How does relationship violence - (coerced sex, battering, rape. financial abuse) - contribute to women contracting HIV?
I have observed that in such instances (of relationship violence) that these women and girls do not tell anyone about the incident or ordeal. It is only in trying to understand their ‘story’ that I find out. These clients I usually refer to Rape Crisis and/or for further counseling. Those who have been physically abused, by the time they decide to get tested, they have already addressed their spouse’s “behaviour” and are in better place mentally, if not physically, and I would refer them for further counselling or to the Domestic Violence Hotline.
What do you mean by “in a better place” – have they left the relationship?
Some may have made compromises and decisions that are tolerable, livable. Others have accepted their situation, found solace in the church, found some way not to have sex, or found somewhere where they can escape in their minds, and some have left the relationship.
What do you feel needs to be done to lower the rate of HIV infection in women and girls in the Caribbean?
I feel that proper counselling needs to be done across the board (for men and women). Counselling that includes exploring with the client how they can reduce their risk. These days our HIV Testing is focused on getting as many persons tested as possible. I feel that more education needs to be done as the general population doe not understand the basics of HIV.
A part of what the counsellor should also do is explore ways that women and girls can ‘better’ themselves. We usually have information on the level of education and job details from the clients so we can encourage and give referrals to some of the programmes available for continuing education, skill training or further counselling they may need.
Her screams fill my head, especially when I close my eyes. When I witnesses that video of the 13 yr old special needs girl being raped it was all I could do to hold back my emotions. It call came back to me in a rush. I was attacked at my home 6 months ago. My home was broken into while I was asleep I was tied up, my head wrapped and then I was raped while my children slept in the next room. This is still very fresh in my mind and sometimes I wish that the assailant did kill me like he promised too so that I wouldn’t have to live to feel what I’m feeling. Don’t get me wrong I’m grateful to be alive but when I hear how people are treating with this incident so lightly as though its no big deal. I feel to scream at them and say yes its a big deal! A huge deal! She was raped! She will never forget it and now there’s a video that the world has seen of her horrible ordeal. Don’t we understand that every time we view th e video we rape that child all over again. Doesn’t Mr. Alleyne Know that? Every time I had to repeat my story, to the police, my family, to my therapists it got harder and harder. I understand its called re-victimization, so if Mr. Alleyne believed what he did was right he must be a qualified therapists to deal with sexual abuse survivors and special needs ones at that.
Its been almost two weeks since the airing of that video and I’m back to using sleeping pills because every time I try to sleep I hear her voice in my head begging him to come off and then I feel someone over me and I cry remembering my ordeal. I wake up with cold sweats. I’m a single mom with children and this whole situation is just too much. Just seeing the way the public reacts so flippantly to the crime of rape, I know in my heart that no one must know my secret and now more than ever I choose to remain silent and suffer quietly because if I get that re-action to me I will surely lose what little sanity I have left and then what would happen to my kids? Who would protect them?
Anonymous asked: My gf & I watched a movie that raised a debate between us. Does Marriage Imply Consent?
No. Absolutely not! When we marry we do not become property. We have a right to our own bodies. Marital Rape is said to occur when a spouse or domestic partner engages in sexual intercourse without the woman’s consent or reckless disregard for such consent, or such consent is extorted through threat or fear of bodily harm.
Marital rape is a form of domestic violence and is often preceded by or accompanied by other types of domestic abuse such as verbal threats and denigrating language, physical assault and other actions aimed at maintaining control and dominance over a partner. The results of Marital Rape are just as traumatic as other forms of rape and can result in physical, emotional and psychological trauma where the rape survivor has feelings of fear, revulsion, depression or anger. Because the perpetrator was at one time trusted and loved, the survivor is likely to deal with bitter feelings of betrayal, confusion and powerlessness.
In Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica and other countries in the Caribbean, Marital Rape is a crime punishable by imprisonment. In Trinidad and Tobago the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act, 2000 states that a husband or cohabitant who is guilty of rape “is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life or any other punishment which may be imposed by law.” The Act also protects in cases of “Grievous Sexual Assault” which are sexual acts that do not include penetration vaginally or anally with the penis.
The Walking Wounded
I was sixteen years old and a fifth former preparing for CXC. He was a teacher at my school but more than that he was a long time family friend. As early as January, the pressure of the upcoming exams was taking a toll on me. This meant That I spent many days in the school’s sickroom and saw countless doctors. One afternoon, after another doctor’s visit while my aunt and I were waiting on public transport the teacher passed by and offered to take me home. My Aunt, needing to get back to work was grateful for his intervention.
On the way home he said he needed to make an urgent phone call and would need to stop briefly at his home. He invited me in and I promptly made myself comfortable on the couch. I must have dozed off while he was making his call because the next thing I knew he was over me demanding sexual favours.
For a moment I froze as the horror of what was unfolding hit home. With mounting panic I pushed him away demanding that he leave me alone. Instead, he pinned me to the couch while his hands began their insistent roaming of my body. As I struggled against his advances