Vic­tim blam­ing, shame and deaf­en­ing si­lence con­tinue!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams

An­other week, an­other re­port of sex­ual abuse des­tined to be for­got­ten by day’s end. The at­tacks be­come more and more brazen: a woman rav­aged in broad day­light at her work place; an­other rudely awak­ened in her own bed. One vic­tim was in her eight­ies. Still an­other, a mother, had given TV re­porters a har­row­ing blow by blow of her or­deal: her at­tacker had forced his way into her home, threat­ened to kill her and her chil­dren if she did not do pre­cisely as he or­dered.

The Gen­der Re­la­tions min­is­ter later com­mented for the ben­e­fit of the evening news, sound­ing ever so much as if read­ing from a script left be­hind by her pre­de­ces­sor: “I will do ev­ery­thing in my power to en­sure she [the lat­est vic­tim] gets ad­e­quate coun­selling.” She com­mended those who had in any way as­sisted the raped mother. As I watched the news clip, I thought about other view­ers; how many had by now got­ten used to such re­ports; how many had by now been ren­dered de­sen­si­tized by the com­mon­place in­ci­dents, most of them un­re­solved. I won­dered, too, how many rape vic­tims no longer lis­ten to the news for fear it in­cluded an item that re­minded her of her own sim­i­lar or­deal. My mind turned to one par­tic­u­lar rape vic­tim whose story had fea­tured on so­cial me­dia.

We’d met a few times be­fore and en­gaged in small talk about what was go­ing on in our re­spec­tive lives. On the last oc­ca­sion we were both off-is­land. She told me she’d left Saint Lu­cia to find a place where she could re­flect and de­cide about her fu­ture. Then came the bomb­shell. She told me she had been as­saulted in her apart­ment; wo­ken from sleep with a knife at her throat—held by a sil­hou­ette!

“He or­dered me not to scream or I would be killed,” she re­called. “I don’t know how I found the strength to stay calm un­til I grabbed the knife and started scream­ing.”

In her strug­gle to take a look at her at­tacker’s face he stabbed her in the thigh and made his es­cape through the win­dow he had bro­ken to make his un­in­vited en­try into her apart­ment. “While I was fight­ing him,” she re­called, “I imag­ined be­ing forced to have sex with this per­son I didn’t know but who knew me . . . who might even en­gage me in pleas­ant ban­ter in the street, know­ing full well what he’d done to me . . . I just knew I had to fight back— even if I died in the process.”

She sus­pected her at­tacker was fa­mil­iar with the lay­out of her apart­ment; that he’d been there be­fore the in­ci­dent. “I never heard him open­ing the win­dow,” she said. “I never heard him turn­ing off my light. He went as far as tak­ing a knife from my kitchen and I heard noth­ing. Just imag­ine you’re ly­ing in your bed and next thing you know a guy is whis­per­ing in your ear: ‘Scream and you’re dead.’ ”

She told me she’d been stay­ing with fam­ily, hop­ing to get her head to­gether be­fore re­turn­ing home. She had given up her apart­ment shortly af­ter the at­tack. Hear­ing what she had been through ripped me apart. Her ex­pe­ri­ence re­minded me of other vic­tims, younger and older, who had over the years cho­sen also to break the si­lence that con­cealed atroc­i­ties that never should have hap­pened in the first place. I thought all of them brave, par­tic­u­larly my friend; com­ing from a re­gion where talk­ing about sex­ual abuse is taboo and vic­tim-blam­ing com­mon­place.

Af­ter our con­ver­sa­tion I was left with many ques­tions. Of all the women who have bro­ken their si­lence, how many have found jus­tice? How many of the per­pe­tra­tors had ap­peared be­fore a court? In Jan­uary 2016, Saint Lu­cia’s act­ing po­lice cor­po­ral Delvin Mathurin an­nounced a drop in sex­ual of­fences in 2015, as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. There had been 250 re­ported cases in 2015 (70 for in­de­cent as­sault, 59 for rape) marked an 11 per­cent de­crease in re­ports of sex­ual of­fences. When the re­port was pre­sented to the me­dia Mathurin said rape in­ci­dences had in­creased in 2015, as com­pared to 2014. Eleven more cases were added to that cat­e­gory, while the over­all de­tec­tion rate for all sex­ual of­fences de­creased by 11 per­cent.

In­ter­na­tion­ally, sta­tis­tics show that only 15.8 to 35 per­cent of all sex­ual as­saults are re­ported to the po­lice (U. S. Bureau of Jus­tice Sta­tis­tics). Re­ports go fur­ther to say that only three per­cent of rapists will spend time in prison. With the odds seem­ingly against women for rea­sons that largely have to do with ev­i­dence, fear and dis­crim­i­na­tion, is it any won­der sex­ual vi­o­lence con­tin­ues to be the ev­er­recrude­s­cent de­mon of hu­man­ity?

Are we in­creas­ingly be­com­ing apart of a so­ci­ety that ev­i­dently has ac­cepted rape and sex­ual as­sault as our tra­di­tion, our cul­ture?

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