Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 2nd 2016 Contents A26
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, March 2, 2016
"Given the prevalence of
incest, and that the family
is the basic unit upon which
society rests, imagine what
would happen if every
(child) currently being
abused---and every adult
who was abused but stayed
silent ---came out of the
woodwork, insisted on jus-
tice, and saw that justice
meted out. The very fabric
of society would be torn."
So said Mia Fontaine
(2013), in her article "Amer-
ica has an incest problem" as she speaks of an imag-
ined space and time in confronting the longstanding
crime of incest. I often thank God for my father
whom I remember as being judicious with his daugh-
ters. Very early, I noted that my father never came
into our bedrooms and I always remember how upset
he d seem when we accidentally crossed paths in
towels---and that happened because we had outdoor
I recall how agitated he became with my mother
when we wore, according to him, "clothes that look
like the store robbed us of fabric." As a child with
good powers of observation, I never missed daddy s
circumspection. While we are six sisters of which
I m the youngest, we were never all together growing
up. Living in abject poverty then, I ve reasoned why
my parents felt it necessary for some of my sisters
to live with relatives at times.
Therefore, when I speak of my father, it s my
specific encounter with a none-too-friendly man
who is regarded with respect (and humorous stories
about his ill-temper) by villagers to this day. He was
past 53 years when I was born and I always say that
age gap accounted for our tempestuous relationship.
But that s the worst I can say about Oliver Ravello.
And I cannot imagine any girl or woman should ever
have anything worse to say about their father.
Yet I ve sat next to friends/relatives who have
borne their father s child when they were still chil-
dren---pregnancy being the public evidence of his
"private" crime---who with their complicit mothers
have "hid" those children to mask daddy s criminality.
And they and their siblings walk around (sadness
etched on their faces) pretending it did not happen.
They forever carry that indignity, always wondering
if the next person they encounter knew/knows that
daddy raped their little bodies from as early as he
decided to yield to his criminal desire, above his
God-given duty to defend them.
That s part of the plain, sick truth of our sweet
T&T that we cannot bring ourselves to accept. Incest
is the most underreported crime everywhere and, in
a society of pretences as ours, if you speak out, as
advocate or survivor, you touch raw nerves and set
yourself up for a stoning.
Just ask activist and former government minister,
Verna St Rose-Greaves after her characteristically
brazen piece last week drew so much ire from the
very men/women she sought to protect by her bold
statements. She said, among other things, that,
"Sexual abuse has been normalised in our society so
even our leaders either cannot recognise it, or refuse
to accept their complicity in it. "If we have not expe-
rienced it personally," said St Rose-Greaves, "we have
heard so many stories."
In solidarity with St Rose-Greaves and all
victims/survivors, I agree that "for too long we have
ignored the ugly things that have been part of our
daily routine." Sexual abuse, especially incest, is a
cringe-worthy subject in T&T as in many other
countries, and is a violation of which little is said
even though we know and suspect that people within
a child s home/family account for more cases of
childhood sexual trauma.
Our ugly truth bears evidence in the physical, psy-
chosocial (mental, emotional, social, and spiritual)
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
injury it s leaving in its path here. The
problem with incest, as all sexual abuse,
is that it does not go away at some time
in the future, and without intervention,
society is made to pay the hefty price.
Fontaine asked, "How could a whole
community be in such denial?" and
answered saying, "one need only realise
that (we) are mirroring the long-established
patterns and responses to sexual abuse
within the family. Which are: Deal with it
internally instead of seeking legal justice
and protection; keep kids quiet while adults
remain protected and free to abuse again.
"Intentionally or not, children are pro-
tecting adults, many for their entire lives,"
Fontaine continues, talking about families
that continue to socialise "while seated at
the same table as the people who violated
• Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications
and media practitioner with over 30 years of
proficiency. She holds an MA in Mass
Communications and is pursuing the MSc in Public
Health from the UWI. She has been living/thriving
with mental health issues for over 35 years.
Sexually abused youth
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