The Journey

Image of Souyenne Dathorne
PROSAF — Surviving Sexual Abuse In The Caribbean By Souyenne Dathorne

THE sexual assault of women is an issue faced by many worldwide for far too many centuries. Society prefers to focus on the heinous sexual assault crimes, and ignore the incidents they believe aren’t jaw dropping enough. I speak for all survivors when I say that any story we have to tell is valid and important to us, that every story, regardless of the details is heinous. WE were VIOLATED; our BODIES and MINDS were VIOLATED. Every story is significant and powerful to the survivor; every story has impacted that person’s life in ways you will never be able to fully understand. Every story has left the individual with real time wounds that will not be seen by you and sadly never truly understood. Sexual assault is not something to be trivialised or sensationalised. Many survivors would prefer never to share their stories because of all the judgement, but they do because to suffer in silence, at some point no longer is an option. The pain they feel is real. They have been damaged by an incident which they had no control over.

Many in society choose to blame the survivor indicating that there was something they could have done differently to prevent their attack. That is not the case that is never the case. When I was abused, it started very young. Are we to insinuate that I enticed my abuser? Was my four year old body, my clothing, my mannerisms what led him to assault me??? You truly need to think before you speak in cases of sexual violence, because I guarantee, that if you did, you would see the failed logic in many of the excuses you use to exonerate a rapist/molester/abuser.

The journey to finding yourself after being assaulted is not an easy one, your friends, your intimate partner, your family, they see the difference, and they see the change. They see the new you who has been born from trauma. The new you who sees danger when looking at men/women (depending on who your abuser was), the new you who doesn’t like being touched, who fears the dark, who sees a potential predator in everyone who crosses their path.The new you, who can’t find joy in life, who goes through the motions but doesn’t actually experience any of it. The new you, who can’t bear to look in the mirror, who tries to find ways to numb the pain, to pretend that none of this, is real. The new you, who doesn’t feel they can trust anyone to fully understand their pain. This new you was created because of what was done to you. There was a need to create a mask, a persona, a different version of yourself, to help you get through the days, months and years that would follow. There was a need to do this, sadly because there was little support that would have allowed you to continue being you while healing. There was a need to create this different version of yourself to help you cope and move forward the best you can under the current circumstances. We understand that you did what you felt you needed to do to continue to get through the day.

The journey back from being sexually violated is difficult in more ways than one. You struggle with the truth of what happened to you, you struggle with the shame that is attributed to the victims of crimes of this nature, you struggle with the questions of what you could have done differently to prevent this. You get angry, you feel constantly violated by questions and comments by those you thought you could turn to for support. You feel depressed, alone, unsupported, misunderstood. You learn to dislike your body, to fear being touched, to fear the questions and comments about your assault. You learn that your support system generally dwindles in crimes of this nature, because many would rather believe you a liar, than stand and support you. You learn that we are cowards that we are driven by other’s perceptions and are willing to hold onto those ideals at all costs. We learn that when it comes down to it all, the pain that we are dealing with comes second to those of the family, our friends and our society. We learn that we are more often than not going to be sacrificed.

This journey to healing, to addressing your sexual assault, to shedding the persona and masks is not going to be easy. I struggle with it every day. It will take time and plenty baby steps. There will be good and bad days, sometimes more bad than good. There will be progress and regression. There will be days when giving up seems like the way to go, I urge you to continue taking baby steps. To learn, over time to drown out the voices of those who are incapable of telling you how you should be coping, to learn to set the difficult boundaries with people in your life who do you more harm than good. I was once told that people will believe the version of the story that best suits them, which also means that they will act based on what best suits them. That generally will not line up with what you need. DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU. Take the time to figure that out. Surround yourself with people who will be there to listen when you need, who will lift you up when you are down and offer to carry you when you fall. Create the safe space that you need.

Sexual Assault happened to you; don’t let it dictate every aspect of your life. You may not recognise how strong you are, how strong you have been. But you have done tremulously well coping under the circumstances the best way you can. This is you here and now. Accept that you are doing what you think is best to cope, but acknowledge that some of your coping mechanisms may not be healthy and work towards replacing them with healthy ones. There is no judgement, we, as survivors, victims; thrivers (however you choose to refer to your stage) are all walking similar paths. Sexual Assault is a very taboo subject in St. Lucia, for a very long time it was a topic that was never discussed and as such, many of you have buried it and been silenced for so long that speaking about it is scary. We understand, it took us, Velika and myself, a long time to come forward with our stories and so we know what you are going through. We at PROSAF are going to continue to help survivors. We are going to continue to work towards making it better for survivors of sexual assault on island.

We, at PROSAF, are acknowledging that may survivors feel a great sense of ambiguity about the their sexual assault; many are unsure what happened, how it happened so quickly, whether they brought it on themselves, and whether they could have done more to prevent it from happening. Violence against women is never ok; it is huge problem within St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to educate and validate your feelings about your assault. Trust yourself and your feelings. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear feel free to contact us. Sexual assault is something that happened to you, it, does not define you.

Survivors of sexual assault need a supportive environment to begin the healing process. They need to believe and feel that they are part of a culture that doesn’t support individuals who commit sexual crimes. We have to be the difference we want to see in our country. We have to be willing to start to make change. We, at PROSAF, have acknowledged that violence against women is a problem in St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. We are here to begin the metamorphosis that is desperately needed. We are always here to listen and if you are not ready to come forward but need a listening ear, feel free to contact us. Remember that Sexual assault is something that happens to people, it does not define them, it is something that was done to them. Survivors, Victims, Thrivers remember you are a strong, beautiful, intelligent woman/child/man who has suffered a trauma through no fault of your own. You are not guilty of any crime, something was done to you against your will Sexual Assault is something that happened to you, and it does not define you. You are worthy of love and happiness. Always remember that you are not alone, that you have nothing to be ashamed of. We are taking the baby steps necessary to make it better for all. KNOW YOU HAVE A SAFE SPACE IN PROSAF. If you are interested in finding out more information about sexual violence and what you can do as part of this community, please feel free to contact us at:

Yours Sincerely,
SouyenneDathorne, Velika Lawrence
Email: ssaitco@hotmail.com – thepowerofone_v@hotmail.com
Facebook: SURVIVING SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE CARIBBEAN: https://www.facebook.com/pages/PROSAF-Surviving-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Caribbean/165341356853908
Webpage: http://www.prosaf.org (under construction)
Telephone: 1-758-724-9991 (sue) 1-758-723-6466(vel)

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