It’s not rape but it’s not right

I don’t know if this counts as discrimination but I know that I feel confused and violated.

Many years ago, there was a guy in my class at university that I really liked. He seemed to like me too. We started spending time together and from very early on he wanted a sexual relationship. I thought that it was too soon and that we should get to know each other better but he wasn’t interested in a relationship.

I guess I was really lonely and I did enjoy his attention so I kept spending time with him and we did have some heavy foreplay but I would always stop him. Eventually he told me that if I didn’t want to have sex that we shouldn’t be spending so much time together. So one night after we had this same conversation and he told me that I should go home, I didn’t.  He then told me he was going to have sex with me. I said no but I didn’t resist when he took off my clothes. 

When we finished having sex he told me to go home. That night, I sat in my room and wondered what had happened to me. I wasn’t raped. But I had sex with him even though I would have preferred that we be in a relationship. 

What is worse is that I had sex with him several times after that. But that first time is not how I would have wanted it to be.

I felt stupid and weak. I thought that I was the type of girl who could stand up for myself but when the time came I just let him have his way. I participated, so I can’t blame him. But, I feel as though I let myself down.

When I look back on it I think to myself that I gave him too much of my power. Or that I didn’t exercise my own power. I am timid to get involved with men. I put up defenses so that I don’t get taken advantage of. I want to be the kind of woman who can say no and walk away. I want to always feel like my decisions are mine, not that they were forced on me. 

Celia

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Abuse, molestation, sexual harassment, they haunt.

It was a morning like any other in 2005, except for the fact that on my way to work and as I approached Chacon Street, Port of Spain, absorbed in my own thoughts, a man grabbed my crotch and kept walking. I froze for several seconds, shocked and scared.

There weren’t many people around and the few who were there said nothing, so I believe they saw nothing. Physically weak, I took the nearest taxi in silence.

I couldn’t tell anyone at the office. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. I told my husband only when I got home that night. The next day I made a report at the police station. I cried when relating the incident to the police officer and she was understanding and kind, but with no clue as to what the man looked like (he could have been a vagrant for all I knew) the police could do nothing. However, she advised me that if I should ever recognize him at any time, I should alert the nearest police officer.

In retrospect, I think that I should have ran after him and beat the crap out of him with my umbrella. Too late.

Several days after the incident, I broke down in uncontrollable tears. My husband held me hand. Poor guy, he didn’t know what to say but knowing that he was there was enough at the moment.

This is the first time I am telling my story and my eyes are filled with tears. Abuse, molestation, sexual harassment, they haunt.

I walk the streets aware and distrusting. I stare strangers in the eye. A “Good Morning” no longer elicits a reply from me, if it comes from a man. 

Cheryl 

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Can’t Speak Up at Work

Years ago, when I was a new employee, the first day I arrived one of the senior men in the organisation came up to me to introduce himself or rather for me to introduce myself to him. From the moment he looked at me I felt uncomfortable. Then he came over and stood really really close to me for me to introduce myself. He made a remark that i can’t remember to one of the other women in the office about they way I looked. She laughed and I smiled. Even though I was uncomfortable this was my first day at a new job.

As time went on, I had encounters with this same man where he would say the most derogatory things about other women who worked in the organisation. This was an organisation that had at least as many women as men, if not more. Yet, when I told my female boss about his behaviour, she shook her head disapprovingly but we both knew she was not going to say anything to him. and I wasn’t going to say anything to him for fear of ridicule and having the name-calling turned in my direction.

This man, who had worked at the organisation for many many years would stand at the bottom of the stairs, along with other men in the organisation, and make comments, grunt, etc when a woman with a nice behind walked up the stairs. And even though we were also employees of the same organisation we felt powerless to stop this form of harassment.

There was no great offence for which we could file a complaint. No touching. But the comments, the peril of having to walk up the stairs when he was at the bottom made working there uncomfortable at times. 

It’s really difficult in these types of situations, especially when dealing with senior employees. I felt that to make it an issue would cause me more stress than to just stay out of his way. And when I appealed to my boss, indirectly, she too refused to make it an issue. I know she too wanted to avoid the bacchanal this man would have caused had anyone dared to call him on his disgusting behaviour.

Lita

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Not My Imagination.

I was inappropriately touched by a farm worker when I was six. (It was my family’s farm.) I only vaguely remember the incident (including the memory of an awful burning sensation between my legs) but I am in no doubt as to whether or not it happened – it happened. Years later, I vocalized this to a male relative. The response? ‘You sure you eh imagine that?’

When I visit the village in which I grew up, I still see the perpetrator of my loss of sexual innocence…just hanging around. He looked me in the face and smiled the last time I saw him in the street. My entire body stiffened like I’d been slapped.

I don’t think he remembers what he did. I suspect he’s done it to other girls, many times before. I wonder if they were told it was all in their heads, too?

– Mara.

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The vagrant

I was walking down the road in Roseau, Dominica … me and some girlfriends. We were chatting and laughing, the way teenage girls do. A vagrant came up to me and touched my breast … just like that. I couldn’t react, I just froze. That breast felt dirty for days after.

Myrrh

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Beer on my head

I was a student at UWI. One night a drunk man at the bar on campus came up to me a started trying to talk to me. When he realised I was ignoring him, he began to curse at me and then emptied his beer over my head. 

I felt humilated and helpless. How are young women expected to react to such advances?

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