“Look I went every way fuh justice, every way I tell you and I not getting any justice. So I just come to talk and let people know what I going through. It is hard and is long I being tormented and I just fed up. But I leaving it up to God.”
The words of a 33-year-old mother of three who walked into the Robb Street office of Guyana Publication Inc (publisher of the Stabroek News and Sunday Stabroek) and requested to see a reporter. More than four hours later she was still at the newspaper by which time her seven-year-old daughter had fallen asleep.
The story she told is tragic. It meanders around her alleged continued torment from the new partner of the father of her last child, poverty, being failed by a system that is supposed to help and more horrifying, the statutory rape of her 13-year-old daughter who is yet to be counselled even though the mother reported that she approached the relevant authorities.
For obvious reasons, I cannot publish the identity of this woman even though she expressed the willingness for me to do so. This is only some of what she told me verbatim, as is usual for this column, and my own experience as I attempted to access help for this family.
“I don’t know why I does get treat like this. This woman does come to my gap and trouble me, she does pelt me house and all and she does assault me children to. I does cuss she back and defend me self but is she does come to my gap, I don’t go by her,” she said passionately.
“And now last Thursday the magistrate guh tell me she dismissing the case against she and how she believe I is the problem and that if I come back before she is three years I getting and me children guh lef without a mother. Dem things could be right?” she asked this close to tears.
“This man go and he deh with this woman and she pregnant, so he ain’t want me no more but why dey molesting me? I don’t go by nobody. I don’t go by she and yet people siding with she and saying how I mad and all dem things. Even the police [name of the police station] saying how I lying when I go to report,” the obviously frustrated woman said.
“I living in my own house… but right now I not working and is me mother does help we; she working day and night to help we,” she shared.
As she spoke her 13-year-old sat alongside her silently, at times placing her head on a desk, I got the feeling that she was ashamed at certain points during the conversation, but she said nothing.
“And I going through all of this and now [name of the 13-year-old] doing this to me. Since November I telling you like I get a heart problem because of this whole thing,” as she mentioned this, the child sat upright and paid keen attention.
“She lef to go to school a day in November and never come back home till next day. Whole night a walking the road looking fuh she with me two small children and people telling me how she mad lef she and how she gone and tek man but is me child and I had to look for she,” she spoke rapidly.
“When she come home and I ask she whey she been she say how she sleep by some aunty, now I don’t know who is this aunty. Anyway, me sister say carry she to the station and dem police question she and suh and then dem send me to the hospital and after de doctor examine she, de doctor say this child sexually active. But she declare to the police that she just sleep by a boy but dem ain’t do nothing.
“The police turn to me, is a woman police and she pregnant, she tell me that if I go to court I would look stupid because the girl saying that the boy ain’t do she nothing. I don’t know this boy or nothing but when I go home the night, I not shame to tell you I beat she and she tell me yes that she and this boy had sex.
“But when I go back to the police, the woman tell me that they can’t do nothing, dem can’t changing the statement and that I should carry she fuh counselling,” the woman said.
As she spoke her daughter kept her eyes glued on her and I listened. I wanted to interrupt her, but I was not sure what to say.
I looked at the child and she looked at me and I asked if what her mother said was true and she nodded in the affirmative. I asked her why she slept out and she moved her shoulders the way Guyanese do when they want to indicate ‘I don’t know’.
At this point I began to feel somewhat overwhelmed, the woman declared that she wanted to tell her story, but I knew both she and her daughter needed urgent professional help, which I was ill-equipped to give. I attempted to engage the child for a while, she spoke but barely and many times answered with a shake of the head as her mother more than once said “Talk to the woman.”
I indicated that they both needed counselling and I also explained that her daughter had been raped as she was not of the age to give consent.
They both stared at me for a while, the woman’s two younger children were away from the interview area as the mother explained that she did not want the seven-year-old to “hear what a saying.”
“I went fuh counselling you know. After the police tell me that she need counselling, I went to the place next to the Fire Station [Cornhill Street where the Ministry of Social Protection was once located] and they send me to the office in Vreed-en-Hoop. We went and the lady talk to we lil bit and she say leh she go to school fuh half day and say how she guh call we back fuh counselling. Nobody never call, never call,” she said the last bit quietly.
By this time the child had her head on the desk where it remained for a while.
The office she visited, according to what I gathered, was a branch of the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA).
I decided to call the office of a child advocacy agency. I spoke to an officer and I explained the plight of the child and indicated that the child needed counselling and I wanted to transport the child and mother to the office. I explained that I did not believe I was equipped to talk to the child and the officer happily agreed but informed me that the CCPA should be contacted, because her agency received transfer cases from the CCPA. I explained that this woman walked off the road and into the newspaper’s office, but the officer did not budge from her position.
“We do have limited walk-in cases,” she admitted upon my query.
She did, however, express surprise at the attitude of the police as explained by me and wondered why the matter was not referred to her agency.
The only reason I am not mentioning the name of the agency is because it is non-governmental and my attempts to speak to its Chief Executive Officer to ascertain its standard operation procedure proved futile.
By the time I completed my conversation with the agency, I am not ashamed to admit I was depressed. I nevertheless called the CCPA and the officer who answered informed that I should try the hotline number because that is how “intakes” are done. I expressed that I wanted to take the mother and daughter to the office for an interview and that I hoped I would be able to take them to a specific officer.
I asked for the agency’s director Ann Green but was told she was on vacation and the person acting in her stead was not in office.
“All of the cases that come to us is urgent but we have to do our intake assessment first,” the officer said as I tried to tell her the case might be urgent.
At that point even I felt beaten and as I looked at the woman and her daughter in my office I am not ashamed to say I just wanted to hug them and cry.
“You see wah I telling you? If you getting dem answer, what about me? And is all over I running. I even went to the Office of Professional Responsibility fuh de police because of dem attitude but I not getting help,” said the mother, who
overheard my exchange with officials from the two agencies.
We sat in silence for a while and I indicated that the two younger children must be tired, because of the hours they had been at the office, and offered to get them something to eat,
“Is church we been going and I just decide to stop in because I ain’t able no more,” she said.
“You see me here I want to work, I does work hard you know. How you think I get me land? I work and save…, drink water nuff days and when people dressing up and so I saving and now I get me own land, the transport in me name,” she said this with some pride.
“Is when I get pregnant with the baby I had to stop working and now I went to the day care and the people telling me I have to pay three months, is $8,000 a month I can’t get all of that one time. But come next year January, I really want to start working. I could do anything. I not shame of nothing.”
I walked them to a fast food outlet and ensured they had something to eat even as my throbbing headache progressed.
We parted ways, but I vowed to seek assistance for them. The next day, through an acquaintance, I got a professional counsellor to start an initial conversation with the daughter and I am hoping that it will progress from there.
I have also spoken to the woman’s mother and she confirmed her daughter’s recount of what has been happening to date.
“I just stress out too over it. I working fuh dem, and me daughter she like work she is not a lazy woman and next year I guh help she to get a job,” the older woman said.
This is not the end of this story. I may or may not share but I can assure my readers I will push for this mother and daughter to receive the assistance they need.