We ask survivors why they didn’t feel comfortable coming forward and speaking about their abuse. But the real questions are why you don’t do more when they do come forward? Why aren’t you more eager to ensure their abuser/abusers are brought to justice? Why aren’t you more eager to believe their stories, their truths? Why do we continue to protect people who commits these crimes? What are we ashamed of? Why does your shame, why are your feelings more important than that of those who have been and are being abused? Why do you find it easier to accept that someone sharing their sexual assault story must be lying, looking for attention, blowing the situation out of context, hiding the fact that in someway they either wanted to be sexually assaulted or did something to provoke their sexual assault than to believe that men and women are capable of forcing themselves on others? We all see the subtle ways it happens in everyday interactions, we have all had an experience where someone disregarded or boundaries and made us feel uncomfortable. Yet we prefer to send the message that suffering in silence is the best solution to an act of sexual violence. We all prefer to pretend it doesn’t happen. We prefer to berate victims and survivors for not coming forward and shunning them when they do. We prefer to look the other way, to demand their silence them and allow their abusers the freedom of speech, the freedom to choose what happens to their bodies and ultimately, the freedom to continue to abuse many, many, many others.
Aren’t we also culpable in the crimes of sexual violence committed by these individuals due to our negligent and ignorant actions? When we look the other way or ignore when crimes of rape, sodomy, molestation, incest, or any form of sexual assault is committed against an individual. Truthfully we are also committing a crime, we are choosing to let perpetrators of sexual violence walk free, we are choosing to turn a blind eye and let them continue to abuse, we are effectively accessories to these crimes. Aren’t we opening the door for many future victims to fall prey to these individuals we choose not to prosecute, arrest, or hold accountable in any way shape or form? We reinforce the actions of perpetrators when nothing is done. We let them know they can get away with committing crimes of sexual violence. We let them know that our discomfort trumps their illegal actions and the wellbeing of those who have survived or are surviving their crimes. How can we forsake those who come to us and share their horror stories, how can we ask they be silent, how can we look the other way while perpetrators of sexual abuse continue to commit sexual crimes? Do we think that crimes of sexual violence aren’t serious enough to warrant serious attention?
Sexual assault is a crime that doesn’t only leave physical wounds but many psychological ones. Survivors of crimes of sexual violence have a difficult time understanding why this happened to them and why nothing is or was done to help them heal and get justice. The blame for crimes of sexual violence is to be placed heavily on the shoulders of society, of our leaders as there is a continued decision to ignore the crimes that are occurring. There needs to be an end to the current method in which sexual assaults are dealt with. One should be able to expect that more is done; if they choose to tell you. Should you choose to do nothing you are also to blame in the continued abuse they face. You are culpable in the crimes committed against them when you stand aside and do nothing knowing a crime is being committed, knowing a person is being sexually assaulted. Standing up and doing something takes courage, survivors have that courage don’t forsake them by doing nothing. Don’t silence them.
Survivors of sexual assault need a supportive environment to begin the healing process. They need to believe and feel that they are part of a culture that doesn’t support individuals who commit sexual crimes. We have to be the difference we want to see in our country. We have to be willing to start to make change. We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St.Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear, feel free to contact us. Remember that Sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them, it is something that was done to them. Survivors, Victims, Thrivers remember you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman/child/man who has suffered a trauma through no fault of your own. You are not guilty of any crime, something was done to you against your will Sexual Assault is something that happened to you, it does not define you. You are worthy of love and happiness. Always remember that you are not alone, that you have nothing to be ashamed of. We are taking the baby steps necessary to make it better for all. KNOW YOU HAVE A SAFE SPACE IN PROSAF. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us at:
Souyenne Dathorne, Velika Lawrence