Unearthing the Diamond - The Tamika Williams story - Part1
When she got to 13, Tamika Pomella Williams stopped counting the number of boys who were taking turns brutally raping her.
"I couldn't go any further. I just blocked it out of my mind," she said.
She was 15 years old when she was lured to a classroom at a school by a young man she thought was her friend. He had been courting her for four months.
Once in the classroom, Williams said the doors opened and a group of older men and students walked in.
"I am still unsure if any words came from my mouth, if I screamed or if I only thought of them. I felt their hands as they caught me and dragged me across a desk and held me down. They were holding my shoulders, my hands, my legs," she said.
A man with dreadlocks hit her with a plank across her thigh so hard it broke on impact. The other men stopped him from beating her even harder not because they felt bad, but because the other men in the room needed to have their turn and the dreadlocked rapist was wasting time and causing her to make too much noise while beating her.
"I closed my eyes against what was happening. I tried to leave my mind, but for some strange reason, my mind decided it wanted to hear, feel and, instead, recorded everything that was happening. I had no escape - not even from my own mind," she told Outlook.
"I just kept wishing I was dead."
Williams survived the ordeal, but it was not the end of her troubles. Forced to report the matter to the school's principal, Williams said she was expelled for lying, while her rapists were transferred to other schools in the area.
"I know this type of behaviour is still happening today, but it is being swept under the carpet, while the girls being abused live in fear and shame," she said. It took her 39 years to write her story, which she started in 2009 and completed in 2016.
For many years, the incident held her mind captive.
"I was paralysed with fear. Whenever I spoke of my ordeal, I would break down in tears."
Today, she says her ability to tell her story is a triumph.
Williams has written a book about her ordeal, and credits her husband, Ian, for his role in helping her to heal.
"He rescued me after I was thrown out by my aunt who felt I had disgraced the family by lying about being raped," she said.
"Even though sexual abuse was the norm, it was a disgrace to my family," she stated.
In fact, the term 'battery' was used for what was considered a right of passage for many Jamaican young men, said Ian.
"I saw abuse and knew it was not the right thing. Here was a little girl who was the same age as my sister, and no one stood up for her," he said.
Williams' aunt has since asked for forgiveness, and she has got it. "I don't feel betrayed by my aunt who kicked me out. It was the time we were living in," said Williams.
Equipped with a voice and support from companies such as the Jamaica Public Service, Williams said it's now her abusers' time to cower - their time to feel ashamed.
Ian said he has watched his wife carry the pain for 33 years, and feels good now that she is free.
His wish is to see other women come out and stare their abusers in the face. "It is time to take a stand. Tamika is one of the strongest and most amazing women I have known," he said.
Said Williams: "Why should victims hide and lead a semblance of life while perpetrators flourish and are free to keep doing the same thing over and over?"
With the encouragement of her husband, she became proactive and read excerpts from her book for the first time at Calabash earlier this year.
She said that at first, she was nervous and scared as all the emotions came flooding back. "But each time I spoke, something happened. I became stronger, less afraid of what people would say or think."
Her true strength came when she started receiving messages, calls and reviews from persons all over the world, mostly women who were raped.
On the United Nation's International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, November 25, Williams unearthed the diamond at her home and businessplace in Camrose, St James - 'Ahhh Ras Natango Gallery and Gardens'.
A former schoolmate wrote a message to Williams on Facebook, earlier this year. "I remember coming back from summer holidays to the harsh and harrowing reality that something unthinkable had happened to a young, beautiful girl named 'Layla' (Williams' nickname when she was raped). As one of my closest friends was hung out to dry and her spirit crushed, while at least two of the main culprits were sent to other schools to play sports".
Next week, we bring you part two of Williams captivating story and how some of the people from her past have tried to make amends and also her husband's perspective.