“Sometimes I remember it like yesterday, when he touch me…. At first like I didn’t understand what he was doing but looking back even though I was small I know it was not a good thing, I know it was not the right thing,” she said almost forcibly.
“But I was like it is my daddy, the daddy who was away for so long that at one time I think he was a mystery and then one day he just come back and was back in we life. But then he start touching me. When mommy not there he would do it and sometimes it would hurt…”
She openly shared the abuse with me. I have known her for years, in fact since childhood days and had heard rumours of the abuse. She spoke, but like many, was not prepared to identify herself publicly; she pointed out that she is not really concerned about her but about the rest of her family. Even her father who has never faced the consequences of his actions and with whom she still has “a kind a relationship” in which they still talk as father and daughter and he knows her children.
“At first when it start, I was so confuse and I didn’t know what to do really because I was looking at he just come back after so much years and now if I talk he might leave again and mommy lef without a husband.
“But I couldn’t take it anymore and I tell my mother and it was like at first this woman was vex with me and then it was all about keeping it in the family. To be honest I don’t know what she say to him or if she say anything, well she had to because just like that he stop but I don’t know and I still don’t know if maybe he use to do it to my little sister,” she said.
“After it happen I use to feel so bad, is like I just want get away from everything and I beg my mother to send me away from the area to some family where I could learn something and get a life. But she was like no I might talk about what happen and it was a shame for the family. And you know what that woman did?” she paused for a while after she asked the question I was not required to answer.
“She push me, yes push me to get marry to somebody who was so older than me and who I never like. I never in my wildest dream would think I would marry a man like that but before I know it I was pregnant and married. I still don’t know how it really happen but before I turn 15 I was marry and had a child, all my mother doing.
“Looking back now that was the beginning of the end of my life because I was married to a man I didn’t love, and I just keep making babies. I never wanted him to touch me and it seem like that is all he want do, put his stinking hands on me and I keep getting pregnant. I guess that was my mother way of ensuring that I stay put. Well it didn’t work, after four children I still lef he and that was it. My children suffer yes but it was either I lef or I dead and I don’t know how that woulda help them,” she said in tears.
“Growing up was not easy, we grow up very poor and is like me life never change. I never get a chance to really make it in this life and I blame my parents, my mother more than my father. Yes, I know he did something horrible, but mothers are suppose to help their children. She shoulda do more for me than pushing me to get marry and to somebody I never even like.
“I am still young but all me children is adult and still struggling. I try with them, especially the girls. I couldn’t provide everything for them, but I was there, and I think they coulda do better but I don’t know, this life just so fish up like I don’t know if I on me head or foot sometimes. But a still living, a breathing, a get health and strength and a not ready to give up yet so I taking it one day at a time by God Grace.”
The last words were spoken quietly, like she was looking for the right words to say. And as happens in several of these conversations, there was silence for a while. I find that when people are sharing difficult experiences it is better to just listen and let them direct the conversation.
“Yep,” she continued, “I now just take it one day at a time, don’t know what tomorrow holds. Sometimes I am working at other times I am not because people treat we without education really bad and sometimes you can’t tek the bad treatment. I don’t have a man in my life because I don’t able with the stress. Even though I have big children I am still young and maybe one day my prince charming will still come,” she said with a small laugh.
I asked her if she believes her life would have turned out differently if her father had not abused her.
She paused for a while but then answered in the affirmative.
“I believe so, at least my mother would not push me to get marry to somebody I didn’t like. Maybe I woulda get marry like everybody in that area but it woulda be to somebody I choose and somebody I like. And maybe she woulda send me away like I ask and you never know I woulda get a education or learn some skill. So I believe the abuse really mess up me life and now I does still remember it, is like it would just come back and I want to forget it,” she said.
I asked about the relationship with her father.
“We does talk; he is still my father. I don’t even know if I hate he, but I don’t love he either. I feel more angry to me mother because she shoulda do more for me and I grow with she more than me father. Because you know what? Eventually he lef again. I think she thought when she get rid of me he woulda stay but he lef again and she still lef without a husband. I does talk to he.”
I then asked her if she would have wanted him to be arrested when he committed the act.
“Oh gosh, I never really think about that you know. It never cross my mind, in them days you didn’t think about reporting nothing like dah to the police. We didn’t even had police in our area so I don’t even know what to say.
“Now I see fathers and men getting lock up all the time for abusing children and I would say it good for them but I never think about one a them could be me father…,” she trailed off.
We talked for a while more and then we parted ways.
After she left I thought about the many women and men who were abused as children who walk around with scars only they can see, and the pain they are not willing to allow others to see because they are still ashamed.
But I am also grateful that we now have legislation and a judicial system that sees more men being convicted of rape and child abuse. We still have a system that allows a jury of our peers to make the final decision and that I believe is still a major stumbling block, but we cannot deny that more women and children are receiving justice.
Late last year, Guyana opened the first Sexual Offences Court in the Caribbean and launched the Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases. The guidelines are an initiative of the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening Project, funded by the Government of Canada, and executed by the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Only last week three men received life sentences in that court, so I believe there has been progress. But apart from the justice system, more needs to be done to ensure victims receive the psychological and emotional help they need.