The tales of Guyanese women are not primarily shocking horror stories. Faith in the compassion of our people compels me to believe that the experiences of most Guyanese women are not shaped by trauma. But we cannot ignore that sinister shadows hover over many Guyanese girls. In an attempt to find their light again, they must often divorce those shadowy figures, especially when they are people they would have loved and trusted. Their stories have revealed that in many instances there are constant efforts to erase the occurrences from their minds. But they often cannot control those memories and so they must pretend that they are fiction. Throughout their successes and failures, the shadows encroach, in an attempt to turn their joys into sorrows and their happiness into pain; determined to steal any chance they have of normal lives. And too often they remain trapped by the silence of our culture; deceased long before their physical bodies die.
Too many young girls, and older ones who are trapped in the bodies of the women they have become, are struggling with the effects of the dysfunction that shaped their lives. Little girls, whose childhoods should have been spent dancing with their mothers and fathers, their first heroes, are trying to forget the unsolicited bodies on their bodies and the betrayal of those who should have been their protectors.
She was the only child her mother birthed. The only child is often privileged, loved and the pride of their parents. But not her. Her mother was nineteen when she formed in her womb and perhaps it was her age that initially made it easy for her to walk away from the child, leaving her to be raised by her grandmother. But when she was eight, Grandma died, and it was her mother’s time to care for the daughter she did not want. Though she worked with missionaries, the experience seemed to have had no influence on moulding her into a more compassionate human being. Her actions revealed over and over again that she hated her daughter.
“Were you the result of a rape?” I asked.
Her father was the father of many others with several women, but no, she was not a product of rape. The whips on her flesh and the harsh words she often heard from the lips of her mother emanated from a place she did not understand. And so, she rebelled. She tried to run away from she who should have been her protector but was her tormentor.
“Tell them you hate me and do not want to live with me,” her mother told her. She was never diagnosed with mental illness, but it is difficult to comprehend that her thinking is not the results of a mind disturbed.
As a result, an eleven-year-old child was forced to tell the court a lie her mother had crafted. If she did not utter the words, her life would become worse. But how worse could life be when a mother hates her child?
And so, she complied and at eleven she was sent to the New Opportunity Corps. Though it is a place where the purpose is to rehabilitate troubled youth, we have heard of many horror stories. Within a couple of months of being there, they let her out to see her mother lying in a box. She had died from an aneurysm shortly before her 30th birthday. But her death did not erase the evidence of her discontent in having a daughter. The child spent the next three years at the New Opportunity Corps and when she was released she met her father at sixteen. A father who had never provided a morsel.
She was once a little girl in church dresses, listening week after week to stories about prophets and the few heroic women in those Bible scriptures. In them maybe, she could have found inspiration to do great things while she sought a saviour. She was too young then to understand the concept of saving herself. She was one of many from a mother who was often pregnant and not by just for one man. Why bring children into the world for whom one has no bread?
“Children are a blessing,” people often say. But are they blessed if they are hungry, malnourished, sick and neglected?
She was the eldest. When she turned 12, her mother became her madam, pimping her out for small sums from the Johns vile enough to rape a child. Many knew, but only discussed it in small circles.
As the years passed, maybe at some point she stopped counting the number of men her mother sold her to. No amount of prayers and no search for a saviour could bring back the innocent child in her church dresses, eyes bright with hope and promise; a little girl’s church dresses turn to shredded pieces of cloth, exposing her nakedness, as a troubled society stood by, ignoring her eyes turning dull because her mother needed to feed the others.
Her mother was her refuge, joy and love when she was around. But life’s demands often separates parents and children. For her, some nannies were relatives and others were not; some were good, and others were not. She suffered verbal, physical, mental and sexual abuse. She was molested by two family members and never told. She was afraid the truth would kill her mother.
A few years ago, one of abusers died. Night after night, she would sit and watch his face being broadcast on the television. For three weeks, she stared. Numb. He was dead and would never face consequences for what he did to her. But maybe his spirit would face eternal unrest. Maybe some kind of afterlife does exist where judgment is sure.
But could it be that the way some of our stories are written when we are born, we must suffer more than others? Is there some test from the unknown to prove our worth for something greater to come? She was an adult and on a date for her birthday. Her date turned out to be another rapist. She still cries. She is not at peace.
It is difficult to accept the prevalence of abuse and sexual violence in our society. But maybe we can find some comfort in the fact that not all Guyanese women have such tales. Not all were hated, sold or violated. Many of us came from strong, supportive families, who protected us and provided the foundation we needed. And though we may not have not walked in our hurt sisters’ shoes, we must hold their hands even though we may never fully understand. I wonder: If we were to separate women into two groups, those who have suffered and those who have not, would the former see more faces? The thought is disturbing. These stories add to the narrative of why so many people in our society are troubled and struggling. Why so many seem to be living without a purpose and dancing with death, for often they believe it is their only escape.