The  community atmosphere in St.Lucia is not as encouraging for its citizens as it could be. For such a small nation with such great potential, it is really saddening to return home to questions like, ” What does St.Lucia have to offer?, Are you sure you want to come back to this place considering the economy and the ignorant people; are you sure you’ll find work because St.Lucia isn’t ready for you yet?”.  These are just two of the many questions I get when I say excitedly that I want to return home to St.Lucia. I want to give back to my community. The lack of national pride in citizens of all ages is ghastly. The conversation of the youth that you may over-hear while sitting on a bus or shopping in a supermarket is embarrassing. The customer service in most work places is surprising. The self-esteem of the average passer-by seems non-existent. The rise in the rate of reported sexual, physical, domestic assaults is disheartening. Each and every individual needs to do their part to promote family and community unity, cultural pride, education and the importance of seeking adequate perspectives and resources when facing the modern challenges in our unique traditional environment.

 I was raised to be open minded and tolerant of the differences in opinions of the people who I come into contact with, and above all things to value truth’s many faces. My parents’ guidance, school training diversity and exposure to Caribbean, Asian, European and U.S culture has shaped me into go-giver that I am today and the proactive person that I strive to be daily. I have recently moved back to St. Lucia after working and furthering my education in New York. I have always had a passion for community development projects and have been networking in this area for five years; volunteering as a mentor to children who are at risk for juvenile delinquency, programs which provide resources to women who need alternatives to incarceration and assessing and providing counsel to users of substances or victims of sexual offences and mental health issues.

I was struggling with the decision of where to pursue my Master’s Degree about a year ago when my childhood friend, whom I was recently reunited with, was kind enough to help me create a personal statement that would secure me an interview for consideration at a university. I began reading her notes while sitting on a plane from UVF to JFK and tears rolled down my face. Her essay was phenomenal and brave to say that least. I sat there thinking how hard it has been for me as a survivor of sexual assault and as a young woman trying to create my own path down a road less traveled and there was my friend, using her experiences in a positive light to as one part of her explanation for her ability to plough through adversity. I read her note and it reminded of me of the very first time I confided in a friend about the experiences that I had faced. I have found that the more I was able to speak about the abuse I endured, the more friends I had crying back, “Me too…”. I immediately contacted Sou (PROSAF -Co-Founder) to thank her for sharing her statement with me, share mine, and to tell her that our previous plans to do projects to give back to the community should be something we definitely work on together. All this time that we had been so close and still neither of us knew the anguish that either of us have faced and continue to face with the emotional, psychological and physical effects of abuse. Honestly, it’s just not something you openly speak about. Sou and I have put an end to that by being pioneers on the road to awareness about the importance of sustaining the family unity and variable issues around sexual assault and how it is perceived in our country and the wider Caribbean.

Domestic Abuse, Molestation and Betrayal: My Story

1.Problem (Circumstance)

2.Solution (Reaction)

3.Responsibility (Blame vs Acceptance)
 There is always a choice…

1. From age 3 I can remember the tension in the house. The sadness. The fear. The anger. The Hurt. The struggle of my young mother trying to do her best with our “situation”. The physical and verbal abuse meted out by my biological father to my mother finally led to the end of ten years of their marriage.

I was 8 when I realized what my young uncle had done was wrong even if he was 10yrs old at the time. He was also a victim of circumstances but the damage had been done.  I would pray at night for me to stop hurting myself the way he would hurt me. I struggled for years with this problem until about age 17. I was disappointed in myself, I was angry and I was scared. I felt stupid for “allowing” it to hurt me the way “i let it”- guilt. I felt I was still “better off” than many others who had actually been raped but a violation is just that, a violation.

I was 18, I trusted a friend who took advantage of me in his father’s house. His family was home. I was too embarrassed to say anything. I just laid there and prayed that it would be over soon. I left the house. Smiled like nothing ever happened. I was angry. Why wasn’t I strong enough to fight him off? I didn’t tell anyone so I would see him in common circles and was left alone with him again and he tried again. Then one day very long after I accepted a ride from him. I can’t explain what I could have been hoping or thinking. There was a time when I guess I just felt that worthless. I thought I could reason with him. I don’t know. Writing this years later it puzzles me. I suppose that is how low I was.

I was 22 when I was moving into my new apartment. I asked a “good friend” of mine to help. He took advantage of me. I did nothing. I laid there. I didn’t even fight him off too much because I didn’t want to make my new landlords get the wrong idea of me. Is it that I wasn’t learning my lesson? Is it that men or people cannot be trusted? Out of all the people I’ve met, those three are the only ones who ever betrayed me in that way. I cannot go around living my life in fear. I tell myself that but at times I get paranoid about people. It twists your mind and toys with your emotions. You question your judgment. You blame yourself.

I live with a diagnosis as a result of molestation that I only confirmed at age 23, because in the beginning there were no signs and I was not severely affected by it. This has caused me great distress and depression. I have gone to bed hoping never to awaken. I have been to the lowest place in my life that I am ever going to allow my mental and emotional states to sink to. I felt totally worthless/ugly and destroyed and I WILL NEVER ALLOW ANYONE OR ANYTHING TO MAKE ME QUESTION MY WORTH AGAIN.

My circumstances, like everyone else’s have made me the woman I am today. I have put myself in situations that were dangerous because of my low self-esteem. I have challenged myself to rise above that low consciousness. Self-sabotage is very serious. I’d like to think that I’m continuing learning from the tests I been allowed to take in this life. People try to undervalue or over value what I went through for unbalanced conveniences but their negative contributions have no weight on my mind and heart. I have been cursed with a blessing; the ability to proactively and humbly seek and accept the truth- at all cost to myself.

I am hard on the man I love because I always feel like I want to know the truth so badly. I find myself being over protective in that way. I rather live one millisecond of truth and happiness than a lifetime of false bliss. Ignorance is bliss is most definitely not my motto. I find that if someone is to live that way it simply encourages lies, and incomplete truths. I feel that if you are going to hurt me today or tomorrow, you may as well hurt me now and get it over with. This can sometimes come out like I have no patience. I don’t exactly know how but I suppose it can be a bit unfair. However, it is the way I know. For me it is what works. I am willing to modify and improve but that will take time. Like everything else in life it is a process. To me there is no such thing as TMI when it comes to the people in your life who you affect or have an effect on. As relatives of each other, I feel that it is important to always be honest and open minded about our evolving situations. It is important to ask the right questions, seek the right answers and never get complacent.

2. Not every circumstance has a direct solution on you. Your reaction and perception of what happens and why it happens has a lot of weight on how we cope effectively. It is a long process but it is not impossible to rise and heal. I was blessed to be raised spiritually and to have family support when I decided to finally unfold. It has been extremely hard but everyday is different.  Every step forward is progress and I will get where I need to be. Just as all of us will. The challenge is taking that first step and realizing that you are not alone. Our reactions and solutions will vary based on our perceived ability, support and circumstance but please promise yourself to try. I don’t care if you have to cry every day till you throw up like I did. YOU DESERVE MENTAL FREEDOM to take care of you. Start somewhere please.

3. Our responsibility to ourselves is all that we have. Being a victim there is not much support or understanding at all. NO GUIDANCE…no one knows WHERE TO GO FROM HERE. You are forced to quickly heal/get over it/move on etc. Most people on the outside looking in don’t understand at all. They wish you would shut up. They want to protect themselves and a perfect concept of society. A lot of victims have LIED TO THEMSELVES AND ALLOWED THEMSELVES TO FORGET IT EVER HAPPENED. You cannot hide from yourself or experiences. Please understand you are not just a victim- you are a survivor and you can grow/heal/help by being honest with yourself and others.

I commend anyone who is able to speak out about their unfortunate experiences period. Being a victim of sexual harassment or abuse like many circumstances, is not easy to deal with. The stages you go through are underestimated; coming to terms and accepting the reality of what happened, waking up everyday after it happened, enduring and adjusting if it is a persistent problem, finding someone to trust with your experience, actually trusting them and telling them the whole truth without trying to lie about it for fear it makes you sound remotely responsible, coping with the fact that you have just let out a big “negative truth” about yourself to someone and hoping that you can actually trust them, dealing with their reaction and using that as a basis for what other people may say or do if you told them or they found out, actually finally coping successfully and being able to separate that bad experience from other relationships. It’s a continuous challenge.

Society encourages fear. They want us to protect the abuser and their loved ones. That is an unfair burden to carry. We already deal the violation; physical, mental, emotional, psychological pain and unexplainable/unjustifiable guilt. It takes a humility, courage and strength to speak out again any form of abuse.  I remember when I finally started opening up about my experiences. I found out about so many people who went through similar situations. WHY DON’T WE SPEAK?. It made me feel like hypocrite. I have a little sister, friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, (lets not leave out men and strangers). It is not your fault if someone chooses to violate you. Sadly however, it is your responsibility as a survivor to speak out about it. I know if the people who hurt me hurt someone else I would feel guilty for not giving the next person a heads up about the characteristics of the man or woman they are about to come into contact with. Yes I understand you cant save everyone but at least speaking out provides comfort and support for other people who have it worse. Know that you are not alone. It does get better and I do believe with the right support it can eventually go away. At least the day will come when it is not the first thing you wake up with on your mind.

I will leave you with this as my main point. In all areas you will find people better off and worse off. Learn from the ignorant and the wise. Pray. Every step forward is progress – no matter how minimal…you are making progress nonetheless. Even when people try to put you down about your situations or try to make you feel as though you should have known better you didn’t do it to yourself- THAT PERSON HAD A CHOICE -THEY NEED HELP. Learn to forgive. DO NOT FORGET. In some instances we allow people to treat us without respect. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE!- and remove yourself from a bad situation. You can have all the help and support in the world but until you love yourself…nothing can be done…

I dedicate my life to being a servant of the people by providing love and a listening ear…Ability without utility is waste and I am grateful to have made it this far… I only want to grow.

Thank you Soubi for doing this. Keep on keeping on. I appreciate your support and your daring nature. “Ever onward and upward – Ever forward and faster” (Wind In The Willows)