Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stella Says: Don't Touch My Daughter

(Originally published in the The Caribbean Voice, November 2005 Issue)

In the Bahamas there are fears of a decline in tourist arrivals because of the increase of rape against foreign visitors.

In Trinidad and Tobago 490 domestic abuse assaults were reported in 2004.

In Antigua & Barbuda, amidst the 24th Anniversary Independence Celebrations, the President of the Senate was attacked and raped in her own home.

In Puerto Rico 31 women were killed as a result of domenstic violence in 2004.

In Guyana an 18 year-old girl was so brutally raped by four men who invaded her home, that reporters could barely stomach the blood-covered sight.

Indeed there seems to be a pattern of threats, intimidation, torture, beatings, rape and murder to which women in the Caribbean are increasingly being subjected. Besides the pain and trauma experienced, these violated women who survive will forever live with the memories of the horror inflicted on them. And so I say, this evil has to be stopped. We can no longer treat these acts as if they are simply a part of every day life. Instead we must all ensure that everything possible be done to stamp out this victimization of women.

My first born is also 18 years old, a beautiful young woman with her daddy’s cocoa colour, my late mother’s mouth and my features. In fact when she was born I would stare at her in her crib for hours. I still steal these moments every chance I get.

When my daughter appears at a doorway her infectious smile lights up the room. Her big brown eyes, which burn with an irresistible love for life, are the first thing a person notices. But her vivacious personality quickly takes over dwarfing those eyes the way a giant oak tree dwarfs a blade of grass.

Intelligent, with the capacity to be anything she wants to be in life, my daughter is self-confident, but not arrogant – though she can be a snob at times and I am quick to chastise her for such transgressions. I told her from the time she first started walking that a woman can be beautiful on the outside, but if she is ugly on the inside, then she is just plain ugly.

She is away at college now and sometimes I miss her so much that my heart physically hurts. We talk on the phone all the time, but that just isn’t the same as seeing her face to face. I know she has to prepare for the incredible future that lies before her. I also know that a good portion of my job is done and it is time for her to pave her own road in life. But I worry all the time especially as to whether she might make the wrong decisions, even though I know she will because that is part of the learning process too. Most of all I worry about her safety.

A mother’s worst fear is that a vile animal will steal her daughters smile, crush her beautiful personality and destroy her promising future. Every single day throughout the Caribbean, there are mothers who have their worst fear realised. I can feel the pain of these mothers almost like it is my own and I sit here in tears as I type this column.

But let us not forget that in far too many cases these acts of bestiality are committed by loved ones, which is why it is time to see every single father who has ever violated his daughter as nothing more than a vile and disgusting criminal. The same holds true for brothers, uncles and family friends.

Did you know that in Nevada, the home of Las Vegas (a.k.a. Sin City), any person over the age of 21 can be sent to jail for life without possibility of parole if convicted of sexual assault against a child under the age of 14? In fact, Sin City even goes so far as to convict as a misdemeanour anyone “who knows or should know that a violent or sexual offence has been committed against a child, and does not report that offence to a law enforcement agency within 24 hours.”

In the Caribbean far too often women can only stand hopelessly by as they watch their violators walk away without retribution for their monstrosities.

I firmly believe that most of these monsters would curb their tendency to abuse and violate women if they knew they would go to jail for life. If each one of those repulsive fathers knew that he would get put away forever if he ever touches his little girl in an unacceptable way, then I am willing to bet those men would desist from their despicable acts. I am also willing to bet those mothers, sisters, brothers and other family members who know what is going on (or should know), would stand up for their little girl if they knew they could go to jail just for keeping their mouths shut. Legislation to this effect takes power away from the predator and puts it on the side of the victim.

It is time to wipe the smugness off of the face of those who violate the trust placed in them. It is time to silence the chuckles of the perverted deviants who invade our homes to pillage the virtue and vitality of women. It is time to let them be the ones who live with the constant shame of their barbarous acts. Let them dream of freedom, knowing it will never come – just as their victims dream to be free of the horrible memories of their violation.

As a society, we need to do everything within our power to help the victims of abuse, rape and incest. We need to support them, provide them with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their assailant(s) is/are locked up and help them rebuild their lives.

These women and children are forced to deal with feelings of anger, confusion, fear, loss and so much more. The one thing their family, friends and neighbours should not do is force them to feel ashamed for something they never desired or deserved. It is the disgusting perpetrators who should be made to feel ashamed, not the victims.

And so I say, we cannot let the fire of life that burns in our daughters’ eyes be wantonly smothered. We need to take a stand against this wickedness and tell these vile criminals to stay away from our wives, mothers and sisters.

For those of us who live in the Diaspora we need to be reminded that a woman is abused every 15 seconds in the US and every 60 seconds in Britain while 3 in every 10 women suffer some form of abuse in Canada.

So I say again to my fellow Caribbeans everywhere, let our voices echo around the globe as we emphatically declare, “Don’t you dare touch my daughter!”

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