By Peggy Antrobus
On 21 October 2017
Today is the 43rd anniversary of the murders of my two younger sisters, Jenny and June. They were murdered by Jenny’s boyfriend who, after years of manipulating her into submission, would not accept her decision to end the relationship. Her friends knew that he was physically abusive. Her family did not; except for her younger sister to whom she was closest and who was killed at the same time trying to protect her. His act was the culmination of a will to violent entitlement gone out of control, aided by a culture of silence.
October 1974 was also the eve of my taking up the post of Advisor on Women’s Affairs to the Government of Jamaica. My qualification for the job was an ability to turn ideas into programs. In retrospect, what turned the efficient administrator into a passionate and committed advocate for women’s rights was what had happened to my sisters, and also something that had happened to me a decade before they were born.
At the age of eight I was raped by a gardener employed by my parents. I told no one. The shame turned into low self-esteem that lasted into adulthood until feminism gave me a theory and a politics to place what had happened into the larger context of patriarchy and its accompanying notion of male entitlement. Although my early work focused on issues of education, health and work, feminism helped me recognize the interconnection between these and the culture of violence against women: everything is linked and sexism underlies everything.
Although I have spoken publicly of my sisters’ murders, I have never spoken of my own experience. Before today I had never written anything personal on Facebook. The #Me too campaign has helped me break my silence and acknowledge the link between my sisters’ murders and my own experience of male violence and entitlement. Breaking the silence is a necessary step toward ending violence against women.
On 22 October 2017
I have spent the day reading your thoughtful, wonderful, loving, and supportive responses to my post, and receiving emoticons – Likes, Hearts and Tears. Some, response like those from my granddaughter, son and son-in-law left me speechless. I wish I could responded to everyone individually, but it would be impossible at this time. So I can only THANK ALL OF YOU and invite those who want to continue the conversation to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It was a special treat to hear from some of you with whom I haven’t been in touch for such a long time – Alejandra, Alexandra, Alda, Angela, Cecilia, Radhika, Siphokazi, Susan, Vanita, Vivienne, Yvonne – and especially from those with whom I had lost contact over the years – Anita, Bisi, Beverly, Brigid, Drue, Frances, Inga, Isabel, Kavita, Moema, Pamela, Rachel, Zoni. Some of you I’ve never met – cousins Ria and Lisa-Amor. I’ve been amazed at the responses.
Some of you have written words that I’ve noted:
“… my late friend and co-writer said that in her counselling work she had discovered that in any given room of women, half of them are likely to have been abused” (Pamela). I now think it’s more than that.
Yes, it did take courage, but not as much as it would have taken 74, 54, even 34 years ago. At eight I couldn’t talk to anyone, certainly not my parents, not even my best friend. Someone I know who had a similar experience, went to confession and the priest told her to “say one Our Father and five Hail Marys” – adding to the trauma by making her the guilty one. And he never alerted her parents! The silence of the confessional. So I also have to say that it is not always appropriate to speak out, and I respect those who cannot or do not, for whatever reason. As Robin Morgan pointed out in an insightful post a few days ago, the reasons for not speaking out change over time – it’s never just one thing.
And it affects different people differently, “… with time tragedy and injustice visited upon us sit differently in our bodies, souls and spirits” ( Siphokazi)
But, as Vicki says, it stays with you! Surfacing even when you think you’re over it.
So it behoves those of us who can, to speak out on behalf of the millions who cannot. We can become “an alchemist turning our pain and sorrow into determination and feminist action” (Drue). “Lead out of your woundedness” (Clarice) into something that gives courage to others. �And, yes Tina, “retelling (does)… make it less painful”.
By David Linger
I want to comment on #metoo. I understand there are numerous women who have been haunted and violated throughout their lives. It is a tragedy of unthinkable proportions and the stories I have read are painful. However, I want to have it registered that for a man who has been violently raped as a child and for whom these stories have brought extremely unpleasant memories, it seems not to have space in the discussion. Why? Men too are vulnerable to assaults, violence and humiliation. I, for instance, ended up in a hospital and lied about what happened to me, as many other people did. This discussion must not be someone’s property unless it is the property of all.
By Mauro Cabral
For each cis person who has harassed me, touched me without permission or against my will, tried to grab me or grabbed me, for each musician, student, teacher, activist or doctor who has tried to abuse me or has abused me, there were so many other cis people who have looked the other way, who have approved of them, who have celebrated them, who have justified themselves, hidden themselves and forgotten.
I do not forget.
I remember their words, their gestures, I remember their laughter, their faces. Be who it may: I remember their names. Like many other, they wonder about Santiago Maldonado, demand justice and punishment, wave flags in human rights manifestations, write #notoneless, they proudly beat their chests while urge to bring down the cisheterosexualpatriarchy and to defend memory.
I see them and I wonder how many other violence acts they must have witnessed, how many other friends they have protected, how many friends are protecting them right now from taking responsibility, how many are convincing them of the futility of recognizing that they knew, but have silenced, that they should have made a choice and they did make it.
For each cis, trans, intersex woman, for each travesty, for each trans, non-binary, intersex person, for each one of us that writes ME TOO, there are other thousands of cis men mutually granting themselves impunity for their actions.