Guest Blog: Silence Is Never a Solution: We Must Speak Out Against Sexual Abuse


Habari Gani, Mi Gente!!  Today we have a guest blog from Yolande Cadore.  She lives in New York City and is a very dear friend of mine.  She loves The Bronx and wrote a blog for us a little bit ago about a place full of loveliness, Grenada.  This piece was written during the during the UN’s 16 Days against Gender Violence (November 25 – December 10, 2011).  Peace be still.  ReFlectionary!!

 

It was a sunny but cool fall morning in New York City. I began my Monday as I have done for the last few years, browsing the internet for the latest news from Grenada. Usually, the headlines were about politics or reports of some petty crime or traffic accident making national news.  However, on Monday, November 14th, one headline grabbed my attention, “Sister Charged with Killing Sharian”.  The picture of an adorable little girl, not much older than 3, accompanied it. First, my daughter came to mind, and then I thought about what on earth could little Sharian do to cause someone, especially her sister, to take her precious life.

 

Initially, I was reluctant to read the entire article. This is a story that would grace the cover of the New York Daily News or other large urban newspapers—not my beloved homeland, Grenada.   Of course, a number of scenarios crossed my mind; maybe it was a freak accident, sisters playing around and a moment of careless play suddenly turned tragic.  What I wasn’t prepared for, was what the reporter was about to explain in some detail. Little Sharia was asphyxiated by her older sister in retaliation to alleged sexual abuse by her stepfather. The speculations are reminiscent of the many stories I have heard about young girls and teenagers, becoming victims of sexual abuse, most often at the hands of family members, or friends of the family.   Regrettably, there is little open conversation about sex and sexuality as a way of public discourse in Grenada. This is rather bizarre for a people who’ve seemed to have become quite at ease with the over representations of sex and sexuality in our culture. For any given carnival season, and at any given moment on national radio, there is no searching for lyrics about sex (metaphorically) and sexuality. Conversely, we have remained tight-lipped on the issue, except for the likely organizations  such as the National Organization of Women and other groups concerned with “women’s issues”  speaking out on the problem of rape, molestation, gender violence and sexual assault.

 

Unfortunately, we cannot remain silent for much longer.  Adults preying on young children, especially those in their care, cannot be allowed to continue without serious national scrutiny and dialogue. Our children deserve to be protected, if not by their guardians, by laws that protect them from gender based sexual violence.  There are two real tragedies here; the first is the loss of an innocent life and second, the stolen future of a teenager who may have had her childhood stolen by a man that she was told she should trust and respect.

 

Is it too late to act to save our girls and boys?  As parents, we must learn to believe our children and trust their intuition, even if it makes our lovers, family members and others look unfavorable in the eyes of their peers.  We must encourage our kids to speak up and not fear persecution from the perpetrators because we are standing right with them.  We must do more to educate our teachers and others who come in contact with children about ways to identify the signs of sexual abuse. We must create safe spaces for our children, boys as well as girls, to learn appropriate language about their bodies and to have open conversations about inappropriate sexual advances.   Lastly, we must deal with the stigma that is so prevalent in our culture.

 

I am saddened by this double tragedy. As I read this story, I kept being reminded of the number of young women and men, who have had to endure similar ordeals, but were forced to do so in silence and with shame.  Many young people who did not have the wherewithal to cope with their pain and shame and who unlike Sharian’s sister may have found less drastic ways to express their frustration. They may choose to seek revenge, they instead may have turned to alcohol and other drugs and even sex, to help them escape from their pain and embarrassment.

From afar, I can offer many solutions but if we truly believe that it takes a village to raise a child, we must be willing to hold those who violate the norms and morals of the village accountable; even if that means pulling the veils from the eyes off our family members, neighbors and our friends, to protect and safeguard our children.

 

More often than not, the wishes of those victimized by sexual predators are simple; “Believe my story – (it’s hard talking about sexual violence as an adult and much harder for a child); protect me from my violators; acknowledge my pain and frustration; if I tell you what he or she did to me, it not about who’s right or wrong – I am a child and I will never win out over an adult and do what you can to change my situation.” This may seem a lot in the moment but our kids are worth it.

 

As a nation, I hope this case opens up a national dialogue that is long overdue—amongst Grenadians from every walk of life. I pray that we place the focus where it rightly belongs, on what it means to protect our children. In the end, there should be a strong message from our leaders, that sexual abuse and gender based violence will not be tolerated under their watch.   Regardless of who is right or wrong, or what the evidence turns out to be, a young child had her future snatched away from her and a teenager is facing what will turn out to be the most trying time of her life.  Whether the accusation of abuse is at the center of this case or not, we can take this moment to educate ourselves and our children about the prevalence of sexual molestation and do something to save the lives of other “Sharians” out there.  In the end, as we work to protect and save our most precious resource –our children, we may be working to protect and save ourselves.  The time to strike the iron is now.

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~ by travelling womanists on December 28, 2011.

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