In solidarity with sexual assault and harassment victims #lifeinleggins


For all the conversations, panels and education movements we have on sexual violence and harassment, there has been the persistent perpetuation of silence where victim stories are concerned. Yes, we do have those who, according to one friend, become poster-women for abuse but while this is commendable, too often these people are removed from the larger society which they are trying to change. Then there are those who speak out and are not believed. Then, there are those who speak out and are believed but are expected to carry on as if nothing is wrong. All this feeds into the belief most victims of sexual abuse and harassment have that it was somehow their fault and see’s feelings of loneliness and depression consume them, particularly if (and it is mostly the case) the person was close to them. That is why I particularly love the #lifeinleggings movement because while it can be seen as just another hashtag, I love that it is helping women to come forward and share their own stories. It is an important movement that we need to see more of.

Its a movement I need to see more of because like many victims of sexual abuse and harassment, it makes me feel as if I am not alone and I have no reason to be ashamed because it is never our fault. The first time I had a hint that my father was sexually abusive was when I was 12. One of my cousins in a letter to my aunt told her that when she was younger my father used to come into her room at nights and touch her inappropriately. I confided the details of the letter to another cousin, letting bare my anger at what I presumed to be a lie. It was not long before I forgot the letter and the way I viewed my father and the unwarranted love I had for him had still not changed. It was only the morning after he had tried to have sex with me when I was 14, stopping touching me only after I started crying did I remember the letter and realised how I was complicit in the culture of silencing victims.

The relationship with my father evaporated after that. While he never did it again, every time he was close by I would feel dirty, every time he looked at me, I felt violated and every time I told someone I was made to feel as if it wasn’t that bad of an experience because “he didn’t really do anything.” One parthner had would even use it against me when he was annoyed with me.So it did not matter to them that I was disgusted by his mere presence, I would still be forced to see him and occasionally sleep in the same house with him because the ones who knew (not a lot of persons did know and only two persons in my family knew) did not think what I went through is concerned real sexual abuse. While I know that there are those who have had far worse experiences, when we begin to trivialise and normalise rape and sexual harassment what we are effectively doing is lining up potential victims for sexual abusers because they know that they will be protected. I don’t think a lot of people understand how these incidents can break little boys and girls. I have since forgiven my father, not for him, but for me but even in my forgiveness, I still feel uncomfortable when I’m in the same room with him, I still feel unsafe.

I have long since stopped talking about it but I have realised that my silence also see’s many persons trying to go through it alone when what we need is conversation and action. I want to be a part of the movement to help break the silence but in all this we should be mindful that it is not our place to force anyone to speak about their experiences but rather to let them know that they are not alone. We are here and we stand with you. #lifeinleggings

On almost being a statistic



I like to consider myself someone who is willing to talk about anything. Whether I agree with it or not, I believe conversations should be had. One thing I have always shied away from however, is suicide. I have never had someone close to me commit the act so I never thought it was my place to air any view on the subject.

I would listen and remain silent to the insensitivity, sadness and often, even anger in cases of suicide, because who am I to comment on something that even I do not understand.

Not often, but every once in a while someone comes to me for solutions to problems they might have. I sometimes joke and tell them, “hey, that psychology thing is just a minor,” but for some reason, they trust a 19 year old with a slight energy drink addiction to make decisions for them.

Of course, I feel bad because who am I to not make decisions when decisions are needed, who am I to tell them that instead of solutions, what I have are stories, stories that will hopefully cause one not to only think, but to feel.

I grew up in Berbice, the county that is most famous for its suicides and so, I grew up believing that suicide was a “Indian thing” because the reality of the situation was that these are the persons who most often end their lives. Of course, being a child who sought answers for everything I quickly learnt that suicide is not decided by ethnicity, creed or affluence-even if these things may have a hand to play in the larger scheme of things, the real problem is depression.

Three years ago, I was living alone and being someone who enjoys solitude, I did not notice the first warning signs of depression- but then again, who really notices the first signs?

At the time, I was still in high school as I had been kept back two grades due to migratory patterns and a pregnancy. After one term, I dropped out of school and while at the time I gave the excuse of being too smart for the teachers, which was not far from the truth, mostly it was because socializing took too much energy out of me, energy I believed I needed to save.

I was having what I would like to call several mini-existential crises and many days I would sleep until my body simply refused to rest anymore because less time awake meant less time to think and less time to think silenced at least a few of the fleeting thoughts of suicide.

While this cosmic loneliness and feelings of inadequacy had cloaked me and threatened to remain unshaken, no one noticed, because I never let anyone see behind that stoic veil. It was not until I stopped hiding behind that mask of joviality and contentment did it dawn on me that that is what most people whose suicides take us by surprise do- they hide.

Things went further downhill for a while and all that was sought were distractions but even these distractions became too taxing and thoughts on ways of how I can or should go out became increasingly frequent. While I’ve never tried, I have killed myself hundreds of times in my mind and of course, that is how it always begins.

In one state of lucid unselfishness, I knew that could not be the end of my story-not when I still had so many others to write, so what I did was I sought help. I sought help because I did not want to be one of the dozens of young victims of suicide that are never heard of in Guyana because the act in itself is so very common, I did not want to be a statistic.

Those thoughts did not go away overnight but they did become significantly infrequent and while my experience with depression is not something I have broadcasted, it is definitely not something I am ashamed of.

What is shameful is that despite Guyana having one of the highest suicide rates in the world, to my knowledge there is only one suicide hotline which was put in place by the Guyana Police Force in August of this year. To my knowledge there is no suicide prevention centre. I may be wrong and there may be more but how many of these are government funded and how many of these are actually known?

But these things are needed, especially in a country such as ours where stigma is still attached to mental health and where young people now coming into their own feel as if there is no one with whom they can speak. These things are needed because they need to understand that despite their current situation, they can always rebound, even from the deepest darkest wells of self-loathing, one can always rebound.

As a writer, I have been conditioned to hate cliches, so while I flinch a bit to write this, people I think, especially teenagers need to realize that it is okay to not be okay. While one may think everything is bad, often, those bad patches remain just a sentence in a collection of J. R. R. Tolkien books and lets be honest here, those things are really long.