Sunday, February 1, 2015

St. Lucia's Dirty Little Secret

Thirty four years ago, as a teenager living at Mongiraud, Gros Islet, I was as carefree as any young boy could be. The world was a simpler place, and my days were nothing more than balmy experiences on Reduit beach, playing football on the sand, swimming, or just lazing around watching the the day go by as the waves lapped at the shore along that stretch of beach we all know so well from the base of Morne Pimard to the old Gros Islet cemetery. That stretch of golden sand was where you had to be, to be in-it.

One night, during my blissful existence, I left my parents' house, in that area of Mongiraud now known as Sugar City, and waited by the roadside for a ride to Castries to attend a party at a friend's house at Hospital Road. In those days public transportation anytime after 7 PM was a rare occurrence. Nevertheless, nothing would keep me away from the party action that night.

As I stood by the roadside hitching a ride a two door sports car drove by at high speed and slammed on the brakes soon after. Coming to a quick stop the reverse lights came on and the car reversed towards where I was standing. As it pulled up and stopped near me I queried the driver, "You going to town?" He quickly replied, "Hop inside, lets go."

The driver put the car into first gear (it was a manual), revved the engine, and in a peal of burning rubber we were off . Along the way we engaged in some unmemorable chit chat. As we passed Sunny Acres and neared the left hand turn near the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School the driver backed down to a lower gear as we were about to negotiate that corner. Coming out of the corner near Monplaisir Supplies he shifted gear again. I was loving the ride, as most people love fast cars and a race car experience; and to top it all off I was making good time on my way to the party.

Just as he completed the gear change I felt his hand touch my knee. I thought it was just an inadvertent occurrence since it was a very small car and a stick shift. However within a few seconds I realized this was no accident and that this man was caressing my knee and leg. I was stunned! My first thought was "this guy wants to bool me." I looked out the window and realized we were just rounding the corner near Monplaisir's Supplies and considered bailing out of the car since I was quite alarmed, however my better judgement decided against it. No words could come from my mouth as I was in a state of pure shock and disbelief. His hand went back to the gearstick. A few more knee rubs and caresses later we were quickly near the Castries Market. He blasted through the Jeremie Street intersection and we were on the La Toc Road. I was resolute that if this dirty bastard touched me again I would grab the steering wheel and wreck the car with both of us in it. 

For those who remember the time when there was no Millennium Highway, there used to be some large fuel storage tanks on the Victoria Hospital grounds at Bananes. As we neared that location I said, "I taking it here." Before the car could even come to a complete stop I had bailed out. The bastard had the nerve to ask me, "You want me to come back and pick you up after the party?"  I melted into the darkness. 

Fortunately I am not scarred by this event which did not end as terribly as it has for so many others. There is no doubt in my mind what this man's intentions were. In fact, subsequently I have heard about his propensity for young boys. He is a well known lawyer in St. Lucia! He is not a cricket announcer.

I started off  with this personal experience to simply state that I understand where many sex abuse and child molestation victims find themselves unwittingly at the hands of their abusers.

During the past week and a half social media, particularly Facebook, has exploded because of the exposure of a St. Lucian individual who took a plea deal in a child molestation case. This case had been adjourned multiple times over the past two years and had finally come to a head. The actions by certain individuals online have resulted in the colossal interest in this case which would have never been realized had it been left alone. Things happen for a reason.

We find ourselves at a very important juncture at this time since child molestation and sexual abuse have been a very constant discussion in St. Lucia for decades. Lets not stick our heads in the sand as we have all heard the stories. Especially in small islands like St Lucia those individuals perpetrating such acts against children and other persons enjoy the protection of too many who do not want to know the dirty truth.

Because so many have been silent to these despicable crimes among us for so long, and the mere fact they would have to face these crimes of the past and discuss the consequences, they are now afraid that too many dirty closets will be opened and that countless skeletons will be exposed. The unearthing of these complicit involvements and the tacit approvals will cause many to shudder at what has been allowed to be perpetuated against the children of St Lucia.

There is enough anecdotal evidence in St. Lucia supporting the concerns we all have pertaining to this scourge of child molestation. This evidence also puts, up front and center, the complicit involvement of so many individuals who should be the ones protecting our children. In fact all too often it is their children.


St. Lucia is littered with tormented victims of sexual crimes too numerous to mention. As we will all agree a large proportion of these broken individuals suffer in silence, fear, and shame. Not only because of the acts perpetrated against them by their abuser but as a result of the ridiculous and unashamed denial by family and friends.

How many stories have we all heard of young girls complaining to their mothers about their stepfathers or about mummy's current boyfriend who sexually molests them? You would have expected that their maternal instincts would  have kicked in for the preservation of their child's sanctity, but no! Instead, these horribly misguided mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters, and other female relatives are the first ones to denounce such a cries for help. The responses below are common denials to reports of abuse:

"You lie!"
"Ou trop jamet."
"At your age is man you want."
"Shut your ass, why you lying on him. He pays for your school and gives us money to pay the bills." 
 "Why are you trying to break up my relationship. Your father set you up to do this."

Mothers who pimp out their underage girls to men for financial returns. Just yesterday, because of the brouhaha on Facebook and in anticipation of my story today, I was messaged by a friend with a story of a mother in St. Lucia. This lady sent her twelve year old daughter to he bedroom of a male friend who was staying for the weekend at their house. The little girl knocked on the door and when it was answered said she had been sent by her mother to spend the night with him. When asked why she answered that it was for money so she could buy school books. The man sent her back and asked her to send her mother instead. Is this desperation or what? How will this mother's actions affect her daughter in years to come. What values will she have relating to sex, love, and relationships? And the big question remains, "Was this the first time?"

Too often children making reports of sexual abuse encounter disbelieving parents. Shouldn't the first priority of any mother be the safety of her child?

Unfortunately the victims of these crimes are too often dissuaded from speaking out against their abuser. This creates a myriad of complicated psychological, relationship, and personal problems which have far reaching implications. We see so many people walking our streets with so many issues and have no clue the horrors they may have endured as children. In our workplaces, and social groups we see behaviours for which we have no clue as to their origin. We may be mystified by a friend's paranoia, fear of intimacy, or even bitterness towards the opposite sex, not realizing the psychological scars and baggage they carry.

What must we do?

It is time to speak out as a nation. Not just making noise online and between ourselves but for meaningful results and better protection of our most precious and vulnerable resource. This can only be accomplished by highlighting an age old problem within our society. It is a dirty little secret that we must all confront if there is to be any meaningful change. How many of you reading these lines were assaulted by a nasty, stinking rapist or child abuser. And how many of you after being molested were courageous enough to tell your story only to be met with scorn, shame, and denial?

Too many times the reason not to come forward is because the abuser is a married man; has a big job; or that the exposure of their actions will cause the breakup of his family. Far too often the protection of the abuser is more important than the welfare victim?

Although in many of these stories we tend to concentrate on female victims, young boys very often bear a great deal of the sexual molestation meted out. Sometimes molesters seem to have no preference and will target both boys and girls. Others prefer to specialize in their sordid ways. We have a society where too many excuses are made which allow these indecent, violent, and ILLEGAL acts to occur and go unreported for decades. Too many of us who should know better are facilitators and enablers for perverted, deviant, miscreants. Very often these sexual abuses result in pregnancy and children born to under aged girls. How the hell can a girl under the legal age of consent become pregnant, have a child, and yet still no one goes to jail? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?

How many wives turn a blind eye to these acts? Some of these people are so dependent on an abuser that they will allow their daughters to face the brunt of these assaults and pretend they hear nothing. They know what happens when these slimy perpetrators get out of bed in the middle of the night and don't return to bed within a few minutes. Does it take half an hour to go pee? In too many families these criminals remain a dirty little secret because the family is too ashamed to let anyone outside of their circles know what really goes on. They all know to keep they children close at hand during family functions when Uncle Joe is around because he is the family pervert. If any child is out of sight or Uncle Joe is missing someone will come looking. But let any word of Uncle Joe's nasty habits leak outside and they will circle the wagons to protect the family reputation. And how many times have we heard of these behaviours 'running' in families? Father, sons, uncles, sometimes all seem to have a flair for underaged girls or boys, or have rapist inclinations? St. Lucia is small and many people know who you are!

We see too many people who are quick to defend sex abusers with every excuse they can invent. Every reason not to deal with this serious issue is proffered. There always seems to be the excuse that we cannot afford the kind of enforcement necessary to stop these acts. If we are to apply this thinking to all crimes then we might as well do away with our police, the courts, and our jails.

The legal system is not perfect, but it is better than none at all. If there were no penalties or repercussions to our actions there would be chaos. It is important that we now seriously discuss dealing with age old issue. It is long overdue!

Children who are abused should always speak out. If any young person or even adult is reading these words and is being abused TELL SOMEONE! If the first person you tell, mummy, sister, aunty, or anyone else does not believe you STOP and find someone ELSE! Tell your teacher or someone you trust until someone will listen.

If you are in your room at night, or anywhere else and someone touches you inappropriately SCREAM and say NO, DO NOT TOUCH ME! Kick and scream. BITE if you have to.

We must speak in a language children understand. Don't be clinical in your conversations with them. Tell them simply not to let anyone touch their cackalack or cockolock and if anyone does to tell you immediately. Insist on this, and one day it may very well be crucial to them.

As part of this process Zandoli International Foundation (a St. Lucian organization registered in New Jersey) is proposing the setup of a sex offender registry in St. Lucia. Additionally, it is also proposing that any St. Lucian convicted for any sex crime in any other country be also registered in St. Lucia. This is particularly because the St. Lucian man recently convicted  for a sex crime in New Jersey is known to travel frequently to St. Lucia multiple times each year. Zandoli International Foundation, of which I am a member, has also started an online petition for signatures which will be eventually forwarded to the government of St. Lucia for consideration in the establishment of the sex offender registry. The petition has been dubbed "We Want To Know" because it is felt that every parent has the right to have all pertinent information available to them for the proper safety of their children.

Please sign the petition below to show your support and play your part in making a change.

Thank you.

Zandoli International Foundation petition for sex offender registry

“Violators cannot live with the truth: survivors cannot live without it. There are those who still, once again, are poised to invalidate and deny us. If we don't assert our truth, it may again be relegated to fantasy. But the truth won't go away. It will keep surfacing until it is recognized. Truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. It is invincible. It's only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, protect future generations from ritual abuse.”- Christine Oksana

Child Molestation, Sexual Abuse, Rape, are all crimes. Do not cover it up!

Continue the discussion. Awareness brings action.