Mon | May 22, 2017

A family’s curse

Published:Sunday | May 17, 2015 | 5:00 AMJanet Silvera
Star* in a pensive mood as she looks out at the setting sun.
Star* escapes her worries in the world of the Internet
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The women in Star's immediate family have at least one thing in common: They were all raped!

Grandmother, mother, two aunts, and the 22-year-old HIV-positive Star were all forced to have sex with men with whom they came in contact.

Star has been carrying the HIV virus, given to her by her stepfather, Barry*. Now, she is adamant that her seven-year-old daughter will not suffer the same fate - at least not while she is alive.

"My daughter already knows that I was raped by a close relative. She knows that it's not only strangers who will hurt her. She is not allowed to sit in anybody's lap, either male or female. She knows good touch from bad touch, and anything that happens, she knows she is to come to me," said the young woman, who is an active member of Restoring Order to All Relationships, an Eve for Life project.

Living with HIV for so many years, Star says, has strengthened her will to protect her vulnerable seven-year-old.

One thing is for certain, if it does happen, she will not blame her daughter like her mom blamed her. "At age nine, I was blamed for pushing my 'forced ripe' self upon my mother's man, who was 28 years old at the time," the young woman said, replaying the anguish and ridicule she experienced.

Born in the volatile Salt Spring district in St James, Star's abuse went unnoticed for months because her mother's priorities were either working or luring the next man who would make his way into her bed.

"She was looking for love and having more and more children in the process. Those were her priorities," said Star as she recounted growing up in a loveless home.

"I did not have a good childhood. My young years were filled with scars, shame, and guilt, and I had no one to turn to because the entire community blamed me, a nine-year-old, for having sex with my stepfather."

From as early as age seven, Star was left on her own, receiving no form of emotional support from her relatives. She spent her days after school with her stepfather, who raped and abused another minor while she watched. Today, she recalls the incident as if it was a porn movie being filmed by her stepfather. The other young woman and Star were his actresses.

"That child later died from full-blown AIDs because he had sex with her repeatedly and kept reinfecting her," said Star, adding that the child's death was quick, owing to neglect from her family.

"She, too, was blamed for being bad. In fact, her abuse was worse than mine. She went through hell."

Guaranteeing the cycle is broken, Star takes her daughter to school with her daily, is actively involved in the child's school life, and says, "Almost everywhere I go, she is like my handbag. We have built a special bond of trust."

For her, it is important that statements made by her mother, who is now deceased, do not come to pass.

"My grandmother was raped, mother faced the same fate, so did my two aunts, and my mom accepted this was a cycle that could not be broken," Star told The Sunday Gleaner, convinced that she would be the one to break the cycle.

"It will not happen to my daughter. I have faith," she said.

Up to weeks after her rape was reported to the police in 2005, no investigation was done and no form of counselling took place. Her perpetrator was never arrested and her mother never answered to any charges for neglecting a minor in her care.

One of the most cruel things to have happened, the young mother revealed, was that her stepfather's mother sent him away to another family member in Haughton Grove, Hanover, where he hid for years, coming back to the community years later when he was ready to die from the disease he had given to so many others.

Star's mother died years later from HIV/AIDS, having contracted it from her man of six years.

According to the 22-year-old, her mom remained in denial. "She would say, 'You gwaan like you a big woman. A man you want."

"No child under the age of consent can give sex voluntarily, so for a mother to tell a child that, it's verbal abuse," declared Star as she urged Jamaican mothers to wake up and stop failing their children.

"You can't profess love to your children and allow them to be abused knowingly," she argued.

* Names changed

to protect identities.

Sunday-Gleaner UNICEF Child Month Collaboration

For months, the nation has been rocked by horrifying stories of the abuse and murder of our children, including sexual abuse of girls. According to the latest national data, one in every five sexually active Jamaican girls, aged 15-19 years, has reported being forced to have sex. Many of them never speak out. In this Child Month series, we bring you the voices of survivors of childhood sexual abuse - young women who have been empowered to talk about this silent crisis in the hope of helping others. Join the conversation online: #NuhGuhDeh #EndViolence

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com