Stunned by her confession, I wondered: Should I hug her? Should I tell her it was not her fault and that she would be fine? She was not and the path of self-destruction she had chosen finally made sense.
I stood there and let the silence linger for a while. Not trained to deal with such matters, I was not prepared for an acquaintance to suddenly trust me with her truth but her words could not be unspoken.
Standing there, listening to her sobs, I managed to say that I was sorry for what had happened to her. I thought about “A Time to Kill,” the 1996 film starring Samuel L. Jackson. In the film, which is based on the 1988 novel of the same name by John Grisham, Jackson plays Carl Lee Hailey, who is on trial for murdering the men who raped and beat his 10-year-old daughter.
Though a work of fiction, the impact of the film is powerful. Vigilante justice and good versus evil are gripping themes. I can’t help but wonder: What if all fathers of raped children were to murder the perpetrators, would such acts, which occur too often, which are too accepted in some communities and also too hidden, remain as prevalent as they do today? If the penalty for rape were the extermination of those found guilty, would potential offenders be frightened into seeking help to deal with the factors that influence such behaviours? Even though there are times when it seems the most appropriate and satisfying option, vigilante justice is not what many of us endorse.
It was about two weeks ago when a man attempted to rape a six-year-old girl. Thankfully, the screams of the child alerted neighbours before he could commit the act and he was brutally beaten. Nevertheless, courts of law exist to help maintain order in our society.
My acquaintance never told her father, who though present in the home was absent in the ways that mattered because the liquor replaced his wife, his children and his love. Her mother should have held her, but she never told her, and she was too busy putting bread on the table to notice that her daughter had been broken and changed.
“I thought about killing him many times,” she said of her assailant. He would be found burnt, stabbed, limbs broken, shot, beheaded. Many imagine hell to be some future fiery furnace, where the wicked will burn forever. But what about the hells that are existing now? We cannot be living in this time and be oblivious to the fact that many people are experiencing hell.
My acquaintance’s thoughts haunt her. The ghost of the man who still breathes haunts her.
“Ever thought about going to the police?” I asked.
So many years had passed. Would they believe her? Plus, there was no evidence other than her confession.
Unlawful sexual intercourse is rape. It can happen with or without force, once the victim does not consent. The age of consent in Guyana is sixteen, so anyone who engages in sexual activity with a person under that age is guilty of statutory rape.
Under Guyana’s Sexual Offences Act, all forms of sexual violations and the penalties are outlined. Some cases attract a life sentence and a few persons in recent times have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Trade unionist Micah Williams, for example, was sentenced to serve two life sentences earlier this year for the rape of an eight-year-old girl. Michael Abrams, said to be a ‘devoted Catholic,’ was also sentenced to serve life sentences for the rape of a child under 16.
Despite these harsh sentences, which are intended to curb the incidences of rape, our headlines still announce cases like the one of a 14-year-old, who was raped in 2015 by a mini-bus driver and conductor and a 13-year-old raped by a taxi driver earlier this year.
Should we comfort ourselves into believing that all rapists are perhaps suffering from some form of mental illness? Like, the rape accused who died on Tuesday after reportedly ingesting poison. Stonie Henry, who had been a patient of the Psychiatric Department of the Georgetown Public Hospital, was accused of raping a 16-year-old girl. It was reported that he told other prisoners that he wanted to die.
I cannot nor do I want to understand the mind of a rapist. I also cannot fully understand the struggle of a person who has been raped because though I consider myself somewhat of an empath, I was never a victim. It would be rather bold and dishonest of me to say I stand in the shoes of victims of rape. I can stand with them in seeking justice, but they are the lambs under threat of being slaughtered daily by the forces that continue to whisper self-destruction when they find no way to heal; they must stare every day at the pieces of themselves trying to be whole again.
What often makes it worse is that many are often quick to victim blame and victim shame. She thought he was somebody she could trust. She had a crush on him and thought it innocent when he invited her into the house. She was thirteen and he was in his twenties at the time. Yet, some adults would hear her story and say she was “looking for it” because of a childhood crush. Some would try to justify the adult’s sickness by saying things like ‘de lil girls hot’ or ‘dey want man.’ The people quick to shame and blame the victim help to embolden some rapists.
My acquaintance sees her rapist drive by and must look at his face and deal with his smirk. The way she has exercised controlled over the years because she has not killed him. He should have known that his actions would hurt her for life and leave a hole where love is supposed to exist. She was just a naïve girl who had no foresight of the danger when he invited her in.
I am not the praying type who would try to dismiss a person’s pain by telling them I will pray for them. I would rather not place a Band-Aid on an open wound. In quiet times, I have thought about her. Though she is too old to be my daughter, I wanted to hold and comfort her like a mother would a daughter. I am the mother of two daughters. When I look at their faces, I see divinity shining through their eyes. I know that there are many like them, their ages, who have been sexually violated and that evil truly exists.