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When child abuse wrecks a mother’s world

‘Not even life sentence can soothe me!’ says mother of victim

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2022 | 12:06 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer

The two women sitting on a bench just metres from the door leading to the St Mary Circuit Court recently, showed strength beyond belief.

For one, a woman in her 40s, two of her sons, ages nine and four at the time, were among a group of several children that Sheridan Shepherd admitted in court to have abused in a scandal uncovered last June that defied logic.

For the other woman, in her 20s, it was her then 10-year-old daughter who was a victim.

Shepherd was charged with several counts of buggery, indecent assault, and grievous sexual assault involving seven minors and pleaded guilty when he appeared in court in July in St Mary.

Nothing on their faces betrayed the grief they have lived with over the past year; underneath their emotionless facades, though, they were just waiting to exhale, waiting to hear what sentence would be handed down to the man who had tricked them into accepting them as a friend of their respective families, among others.

The fact that sentencing was postponed until next month, September 7, in the Home Circuit Court, means the chance of getting some form of closure has been delayed and their agony prolonged.

But it seems like nothing, absolutely nothing, except maybe for the death sentence, can appease them.

“My spirit cyaa soothe, even if dem gi him di life sentence it cyaa soothe mi spirit to how mi feel right now,” said the first mother, speaking with The Gleaner.

Her voice spoke not just for the moment but for a future that her sons will face that has already been tainted and torn apart by the devilish acts of the accused.

Finding out about the abuse of her two sons hit her hard.

“When mi find out the night mi waa cry, mi run, mi beat the neighbour door, mi waa cry out but it naw come out ...” she recalled.

Already, both sons, despite counselling, are exhibiting behaviours that were non-existent prior to the abuse. The mother says she is seeking to arrange more counselling for them and also for herself as she, too, is being affected deeply.

“The counselling seems like it finished now but I’ll be getting private counselling, different from what the court has ordered. And for myself also because mi cyaa live with this bitter, dark feeling inside,” she told The Gleaner.

“The smaller one has an anger problem, maybe that’s the reason because him never really use to behave like that and him just get boisterous over everything. The big one him quiet in a way but sometimes when him talk him talk violent, like kill, and poison ...”

She firmly believes it is the abuse that has caused them to be behaving like that. She believes she, too, is heading down a dangerous path because of the entire episode.

“I’m bitter, dark. Mi feel like mi would do dangerous things, that’s why mi a go seek help fi myself, too, because it is very hard,” she added.

The second mother told The Gleaner that the moment her daughter told her what the accused did to her, she believed.

According to her: “I believed her because knowing her, she nuh tell lie, she’s a nice little girl, very calm little girl and the way how she came to me, she a whisper and how she look frighten and disturbed an’ ah say to mi say, she tired a him now because a more than one occasion him a come to her ‘bout it an’ she fed up ah him now, and ‘mama yuh have to do something about it now’.”

“I was like, baby calm dung, calm dung, I’m gonna deal with it. Tell me exactly what happened. When she told me, mi disturbed, mi jus feel like…”

The mother’s experience is made even more painful as the current scenario has brought back memories of her own sexual abuse, years ago, even causing her to question her role and responsibility as a mother.

“Mi wonder if mi let her down because knowing that I am a victim too of being raped and I didn’t get any justice in the courthouse, so I’m like ... dis come happen to mi daughter to? An’ mi ah try fi protect har, mi a wonder if mi let her down. Mi say God, mi a go do something about it now. Same time police get involved ...”

Then the accused came to her and she realised immediately that whatever little hope she had that her daughter might not have been totally honest, vanished. “Based on how him come to me an’ ah ask if everything alright, everything good? An’ how mi see him face, how him look frighten.”

She said Shepherd led families astray by pretending to be a mentor of sorts to the kids.

“Him come and di little boys were there, he was telling them not to do anything to go to jail. Him a counsel them and a tell dem to behave themselves. So inna mi mind mi a say a somebody good. So honestly, him let me down, tear me apart,” the woman admitted. She said her daughter is trying to cope.

“But sometimes out of the blue she will talk about it. When I said to her, baby him plead guilty, hear her: ‘Then nuh dat him fi do because him know wi naw tell no lie pon him’.”

Like the first mother who spoke with The Gleaner, this one, too, is being negatively affected by the ordeal. “Mi a tek it hard; hard, hard, hard because when mi fi come court mi nuh sleep in the night; ah stress over it. Honestly, mi need some counselling more than anything right now,” she said.