SCHOOL­GIRL RAPED, LEFT WITH CHILD

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ryon Jones Staff Reporter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

SHE IS only 15 years old and still in school, but is al­ready the mother of a six-month-old daugh­ter.

Bri­anna Johnson* is one of 20 girls who got preg­nant and had to drop out of the Kel­lits High School in Claren­don over the last two years.

She said her predica­ment did not result from her will­ingly en­gag­ing in sex­ual in­ter­course at a young age, but in­stead it was a case of her be­ing raped.

Sadly, Bri­anna’s story is all too com­mon across Ja­maica, as the so­ci­ety con­tin­ues to grap­ple with teenage preg­nancy, a num­ber of them be­cause of sex­ual abuse.

“I went to spend the hol­i­day with my grand­mother in Ocho Rios, as I al­ways do, and while there she sent me to the shop,” the young lady re­counted. “On my way to the shop, I was drawn into bushes and raped.”

Bri­anna – who lives in an ex­tended fam­ily with both par­ents, three sib­lings, grand­mother, cousin and her daugh­ter – said she is now strug­gling to put the or­deal be­hind her. She also re­mains fear­ful of walk­ing alone on the road.

“I try not to put it on my mind or to re­live the in­ci­dent, but I have tried not to walk or go any­where alone,” she told The Sun­day Gleaner.

FEARED DROP­PING OUT

On learn­ing that she was preg­nant, she said her great­est fear was not be­ing able to com­plete high school and fur­ther her­self in pur­suit of a bet­ter life, but thanks to the pol­icy of the school, she was spared that de­spair and is now looking for­ward to do­ing her Caribbean Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion Cer­tifi­cate (CSEC) ex­ams next year.

“When it happened I just kept say­ing ‘I want to go back to school’. Even when school started I thought to my­self, ‘I could have been at school now’. But I wasn’t so wor­ried be­cause my mother told me I would be go­ing back to school, and it’s OK now be­cause I got to go back and fin­ish my sub­jects,” she shared.

Bri­anna was, how­ever, re­luc­tant to

re­turn to her com­mu­nity at first, as she was fear­ful of what peo­ple would say. She de­cided to go back af­ter rumours started that she had got preg­nant for her brother.

“While in Ocho Rios, where my grand­mother lives, I de­cided that I didn’t want to re­turn to my com­mu­nity.

Then my fa­ther called my mother and said per­sons in the com­mu­nity were say­ing that my brother got me preg­nant be­cause they haven’t seen any­body vis­it­ing me at home,” she ex­plained.

“At that point, I changed my mind and de­cided to re­turn be­cause I didn’t want per­sons to be­lieve that was true. I told them that they can say what they want to say, I know what happened but I am not telling them.”

The teen mom, who in the ab­sence of the fa­ther had to give the child her last name, said her mother has been ex­tremely sup­port­ive, which has made it eas­ier for her to re­sume get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion.

“She [my mother] told me that when I re­turn to school I should fo­cus on my stud­ies and not to let this [preg­nancy] hap­pen again,” Bri­anna shared.

“When I go home I have to care for my child and do home­work, which is very chal­leng­ing, but my mother is help­ful.”

PEERS SUP­PORT­IVE

She has also not ex­pe­ri­enced any prob­lems set­tling back into school, as her peers and teach­ers alike have been very sup­port­ive.

Bri­anna is now looking for­ward to sit­ting five CSEC sub­jects next year, three fewer than what she would have liked due to fi­nan­cial con­straints, but in­tends to do the oth­ers at a later date, as she wants to be­come a nurse.

“I want to be­come a nurse be­cause I like tak­ing care of chil­dren, and I want to take care of my fam­ily when they get old, so I have de­cided not to idle,” she said.

“Plus, when I get older I don’t want my chil­dren on the road beg­ging; I want to be able to work and pro­vide for them. My fam­ily will help me but I don’t want to be like some girls.”

*[Name changed to pro­tect iden­tity]

RUDOLPH BROWN/PHOTOGRAPHER

Bri­anna Johnson* is one of 20 girls who got preg­nant and had to drop out of the Kel­lits High School in Claren­don over the past two years.

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