Sexual violence: A blight on a beautiful land
Jamaica is a beautiful country but is scarred by the high level of sexual violence cases against women and girls of all ages. Women and children were once cherished, respected and protected. However, there seems to be an increasing sentiment among some men where women are preyed upon and classified as 'properties' or 'a piece of meat'.
According to the article 'Sexual Violence against Women and children: Just a little Sex' found on the website of Amnesty International Caribbean, "Sexual assault is the second most common cause of injury for women, after fights, and five per cent of all violent injuries seen in hospitals are caused by
Under the heading 'Sexual violence in the home', the article states, "As elsewhere in the world, women in Jamaica are most at risk in their homes - more than half of all violence against women occurs in the home, and just over half of this is perpetrated by intimate
partners. Women are nearly 30 times more likely than men to have a sexual-assault-related injury and the perpetrator is usually someone they know."
They raped me
Twenty-five-year-old Anastasia Lynch* tells Flair that she was raped in early 2005 by a very close cousin and his friend, whom she still doesn't know.
Lynch recalls being in the room to the back of her family home in St Thomas*, while her younger sister and brother were in a room to the front watching television. Lynch says her sister came and asked her for the key to open the front door.
"My sister said the person at the door told her that her Aunty Marcia* gave him something to give her. When I asked if she knew who it was, she said no. When I went to the door, no one responded, which was strange," Lynch recalls.
Being the eldest sibling, Lynch says that she could not panic or act afraid because that would have frightened the younger ones. "I told my sister she was too 'fraidi fraidi' - and went back to the back room," she recalls.
"My sister came to the back room for the second time, but this time she was crying, saying that she was afraid. This time, I am beginning to feel fearful. So I took up the flashlight and went to the living room that had no roof, thanks to hurricane Ivan. I opened the board window and shone the light through the window on the person. He was wearing a handkerchief wrapped around his nose and mouth, and had a black scandal bag in his hand," Lynch explains.
"This time, he told me that my mother gave him something in the black bag to give me, so I told him to give it to me through the
window. He told me I would have to open the door to collect it." After a back-and-forth debate about opening the door, Lynch said he then walked towards the gate. Lynch had no idea that her cousin was at the gate in the dark, telling his friend what to say.
Lynch said she returned to the back room and continued with her homework. Her sister came to her for the third time crying and said she was afraid and that Lynch should call their father.
"I sent a please call me to my dad's phone, then started heading to the front room. I began to close the door of the front room, and saw someone's hands moving away the door that separated the living room from the two bedrooms. It was the same guy with the handkerchief on his face with a homemade gun pointing at me. He said that he was not going to hurt me if I cooperated and I should come with them. The other guy was covered with the tarpaulin in the living room doorway, with his unlaced shoes in hand. The man with the gun began to lead me through the back door to an open lot that was directly behind the yard, and they both did what they came to do," Lynch said with tearful eyes.
"Just as my father came through the door, my younger brother blurted out that I was just raped. My father said, 'What ... a Richie*! Mi jus' si Richie likkle while, him look nervous and keep looking down di road ... and si a boy wid sumthin' in his hand!'" My father immediately took me to the police station and they took me to the hospital.
I felt embarrassed
Lynch said she felt scared and violated, knowing that she was raped by her own cousin - his father and her mother had the same mother. "A few days after, the word got out that Richie* was boasting about what he was wearing and his side of the story, which confirmed that it was him."
Lynch said that because they lived in the same community, it was hard to walk in her community without being reminded, and looked down upon. She also recalled at one point passing her cousin on the same side of the road and being overtaken by fear.
"The case is now in court. It was unfortunate that family members showed up at court representing my cousin. It was a very embarrassing moment for me."
Counselling saved me
Through that period, Lynch explained that she was preparing for her CXC examination that was scheduled for May of that year. "I had to miss classes to go to court some days and it was very stressing and distracting. I was then scheduled to visit the Victim Support Unit in the area once per week.
"At my first meeting, I explained what happened and how it made me feel. I started the blame game and what would have happened differently if I wasn't home - because they deliberately came for me. My counsellor said that I had nothing to do with what they did to me and I should never blame myself. I cried for almost the entire session."
As the sessions went on, Lynch began to rebuild her self-esteem. "I was really grateful to know that someone cared enough to listen - someone who understood and was focused on me and on helping me. I felt a sense of security and safety."
She said that, over time, her fear of bad things happening to her disappeared and her life has returned to normal. It took her more than two years. "Today, I am better off because of the Victim Support Unit. I was able to recover and move on with my life. I got my five CXCs, went on to pursue my bachelor's degree, and now hold a good job. I have been freed from my fears and will always keep close to me the words of my counsellor: 'No matter what happen to you from here on, as long as you are alive, you can rise again. There will always be a way and if there is no way, create one - just believe in you.'"
What the counsellor says
In the same amnesty article, under the heading 'Incest', it says:"Children require protection from sexual violence in the home. The Jamaica Injury Surveillance system has shown that 86 per cent of sexual assault cases reported in 2002 and 2003 were committed by a relative, friend, acquaintance or an intimate partner."
Angela Hall-Ingram, outreach director at Woman Inc, said that they received few reports about acts of sexual violence among women and girls, as some women feel embarrassed, or after a while start sympathising with the
culprit, and, in other cases, their lives or that of their relatives are threatened. She also found that individuals call in on behalf of victims who are not willing to get counselling.
Notice the changes and signs
Ingram implores mothers of young girls to pay close attention to their daughters, and not to ignore signs of withdrawal, sadness and other indications that something might be wrong. "Parents should not ignore children when they report that they are been molested, but should report it to the police.
The Woman Inc operates as a Crisis Centre which provides
counselling sessions, and Ingram implores more women and girls who are experiencing violence to call the hotline for emergency assistance, including emergency shelter for those whose lives are in danger.
* Names changed to protect identities.