“I was 17 when I was first verbally accosted on the street. I was standing on the PBR at the Tacarigua intersection, when a man—probably in his 20s—who I had seen at the corner before, approached me.
“He began: ‘Next time yuh come ’round here looking so sweet…’ Or maybe he said ‘juicy’. I’m not sure. But he definitely continued: ‘I go rape yuh’…”
In 2017, a nationwide survey into women’s experiences with intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence was conducted in Trinidad and Tobago. The results of the survey suggested:
- 30% of women in this country experience physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
- Over 7% of women in this country who were pregnant experienced physical violence during at least one pregnancy.
- One in three women who experience intimate partner violence do not tell anyone.
Over the next 16 days, from November 25th to December 10th, there will be worldwide activism to raise awareness about the problem of violence against women and girls.
In keeping with this year’s theme #HearMeToo, several women have written to the Coalition against Domestic Violence to share their experiences and views on violence against women in this country. These letters will be shared on Wired868.
The following letter is the first in that series and was submitted by Chabeth Haynes, who is a volunteer for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
I was in primary school when I learnt first-hand about physical violence against girls and women. My refusal to play with a male classmate was met with a punch to the stomach.
I was 14 or 15 the first time I learnt someone I knew had been raped. It happened when she took a taxi from the Dinsley/Trincity junction. She was around my age.
I was 17 when I was first verbally accosted on the street. I was standing on the PBR at the Tacarigua intersection, when a man—probably in his 20s—who I had seen at the corner before, approached me.
He began: “Next time yuh come ’round here looking so sweet.” Or maybe he said “juicy.” I’m not sure. But he definitely continued: “I go rape yuh.”
Before I turned 18—while I was still a child, and before I ever had a proper non-familial or non-platonic relationship with a man—I had directly or peripherally been affected by physical, sexual, and verbal violence at the hands of a male.
I had experienced male violence before I had experienced male love. I had learnt to fear men before I had learnt to feel safe with them. As infuriating as that is, what’s more enraging is that I am by no means an anomaly. Too many girls know physical, sexual, and verbal violence before they even enter adulthood.
The impact of this type of environment is not fleeting. It is lifelong.
Violence against women and girls in all its horrible forms is a pervasive and persistent problem despite the best efforts of women and girls to quell it. But try as we might to end it, we cannot succeed without the collaboration of men. Because while violence against women and girls is a female issue, it is not a female problem. It is a male problem.
It is a male problem that manifests itself through us—through our abuse and suffering and the denial of our human dignity, safety, and peace of mind. A male problem stemming from the devaluation of women and a belief in male domination.
A male problem that will continue until men join the charge to redefine masculinity, eradicate the culture of fear in which women live, and dismantle a patriarchal system that dictates men should reign over women.
Addressing the problem can only begin when men honestly self-evaluate.
Are you an active oppressor? Shamelessly beating women into submission with your words, fists and/or penis?
Are you an accomplice? Snickering at jokes and insults that demean, belittle, and disrespect women, creating a hostile environment for us?
Do you compartmentalise and give a man who you know is God-awful to women a bligh because elsewhere in life he fulfils a purpose for you?
Are you an enabler? Staying silent and uninterested in the face of a brutal and burning societal problem that affects half the population? Do you uphold the patriarchy and keep the boys’ club intact? Does a man even belong in a boys’ club?
There is strength in supporting those who do not enjoy the same social privileges that you do. There is no strength in using violence—verbal, physical, or sexual—to force submission. That is cowardice, indicative of a weak personality incapable of handling a challenge.
A cowardly culture of oppression can only rise and thrive when those with the strength and power to stymie it, choose not to. So where do you stand, man?
Or are you choosing to sit on the sidelines while we fight this battle to end violence against women and girls? That’s unfortunate. Because women really need to #HearMenToo.
Editor’s note: The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Health Study 2017 can be found HERE.