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I Tell Their Stories For Healing

By Verna St. Rose Greaves
May 18, 2008

I Tell Their Stories for Healing (names not real)

Shira, a 14-year-old Guyanese girl, was brought to Trinidad to work as a household helper. She was happy to leave her home and looked forward to the promise of a better life, and escape from the poverty under which her family lived. Her two older sisters were victims of incest at the hands of her father and her mother wanted her gone before she too became a target. In her new home Shira did all her chores as directed by the 'madam', including having sex with the employer's physically and mentally challenged son. Her circumstances did not provide her with an option. Reports to the police, and immigration bore no fruit. Twenty years have passed; who knows what happened to Shira?

From eight years old Evangel was forced to have sex with her maternal uncle. He infected her with HIV and at fourteen she died an old disfigured woman. Police response "I don't know why you wasting your time, them young girls accustom to their hangings; it is their way of life." For them early sexual initiation was part and parcel of the lives of poor young women in that district. Twenty years later how has this changed?

Almost two decades ago a mother and her two sons nine and fourteen years old contracted the HIV virus from her husband their stepfather. They died long before their final passing; the older boy was never able to hold his head up, his chin literally rested on his chest. Neighbours reported that they could hear the boys scream night after night as they were being raped. In response they threw stones on the roof of the house but as time passed and the screams grew weaker so too did their intervention. Again no police action, homophobia feeds denial. It is easier to accept when it happens to a girl.

A 1997 Draft Task Force Report on Children's Homes in Trinidad and Tobago, tells of the sexual abuse of children by staff. In one home, girls who were viewed as 'too hot' were allegedly beaten with electric cords and wire, and doused with iced water. At another home a male staff member allegedly perpetrated multiple sexual acts on the children; including buggery, encouraging boys to have sex with each other while he watched, stripping and beating the older boys while the younger ones looked on, encouraging the children to play with his private parts. It was reported that he hit a child who told about the 'rough play' which took place at night. When confronted he admitted his actions explaining that he too, had been abused while an inmate at the said home. He was reportedly asked to volunteer his resignation was given his benefits and a letter of recommendation from the home. The matter was then promptly swept under the carpet, to protect the reputation of the Home.

As we move towards Vision 2020 such acts continue to be covered up, discovery often met with denial, reports are trivialised; neighbourhood interventions are non existent or weaken with the passage of time. Family reputation becomes more important than child protection. Other people's children are sacrificed to satisfy the needs of our own. Our children implode as we misunderstand their screams of silence. We ignore their messages of violence, murder and mayhem. Their voices boom from the barrel of their guns, as they vent their anger. We conduct forensic investigation on their weapons but not of their woes.

Child sexual abuse is a horrible crime that we condemn in general but in reality we ignore or tolerate. Ensuring the safety of children is our job as adults. The enactment of legislation to protect our children is our responsibility.


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