The Frontlines of my Life: Moving beyond Hate (Module 1 Assignment)

Sherna Alexander Benjamin
Posted March 15, 2016 from Trinidad and Tobago
Reflecting while on my way to a do a presentation

Thomas Paine once said — “If there must betrouble,let it be in myday thatmychild may have peace.” My day of trouble seems to never end, it seems to intensify with each passing hour and at times the path which chose me by force seems to overwhelm me and cause me to shout OH Violence! Thou has conquered.

And in such times something unseen, something mystical pushes me through the darkness, pushes me to hold on and pushes me to continue being a pioneer and voice for change, it is said that the pioneers get the beatings and the settlers get the rewards, if this is true then the victims of violence who now advocate for change have walked into a different level of abuse and victimization all by a society which often lacks empathy, seeks to hold fast to generational norms and draws the strings to the purses of change and resources tightly.

Sometimes I utter to myself “if this is the price to have a society which is free from violence against women and girls then I would rather not have peace” this may seem to be a harsh statement to many however, many victims who lived in the in the midst of war, were conditioned to know nothing else, because violence and chaos touched our lives at tiems we feel strangely at peace in times of war but also insanely uncomfortable and cry out for help.

However, when I reflect on the emotional, psychological, physical and sexual damage which wrecked my life as a child and set me on a self-destructive path the day my innocence was violently stolen from me in plain sight I rather fight, I rather pioneer and I rather use the debris of my life to make a positive change and touch lives. I rather work towards the prevention of violence against women and girls and I rather feel the sting of a society which is often times uncaring.

A child’s life must never hurt, a child must never be allowed to grow up before their time and a child must never be a sexual object for the self-gratification of the perverted appetite of men whose uncontrolled passion is governed by the lustful desire to control, hurt and perpetuate violence without a second thought for the lifelong damage which their acts leave behind.

At times I rather forget my pain, forget that childhood emotional, physical and sexual abuse touched my life and marred it, I rather forget and just live, I rather forget the psychological problems which I endured, the depression which took over my life which caused me to feel immobilized and fearful at times even at the voices of people and I rather forget the depression which moved me to be a loner and isolate myself even among and within the crowd.

I rather forget the outburst of anger and life of living with rage, the inability to trust completely, the unavailability of authentic love and the self-harm which at times caused me to think overtime about taking my life and tried it without success and I rather forget the unborn lives which I took because of fear, shame and guilt and those acts of taking a life which haunts me up to this day.

I rather forget the seductive pull of being torn between hating the abuse and my abusers and the few times that my body as a teenager yearned and pulled me towards feeling for the sexual touch but despising it which often caused me to wash my skin so hard that it often blistered, I rather forget the facades which I had to create to be able to survive the next day, the next touch and to face society, the bouts of shame which moved me to make up stories of grandeur just not to be classed as incomplete, flawed and the cause of the abuse and to protect the abusers while wishing they were caught or dead.

Can a child six and half to seven years old truly lure a mature man who can be her father and or grandfather to rape her and continue to do so for nine years, while mentally this child slowly begins to hate the world, life, hates her body and is ashamed of it, while the creeping thoughts of hate envelope her mind against those who stood on the side lines and did nothing, while the passion of hate for a society which said “girls should be seen and not heard”, and the growing despise against the very touch of a man but also yearning to be loved and touched by a man, can a child truly lure a man to strip her of her identity so that for her entire life she continues to search to find herself and understand who she is.

While my life is continually one of transition, one of growth and one of acceptance I cannot and will not allow society to say to me “Hush”, “girls should be seen and not heard”, I will not allow those in authority to say “break your silence, but we cannot support you” and I will not be re-traumatized and re-victimized by those in society who believe that victims of violence make too much noise, require too much support and continue to keep this family secret in a public space.

One thing I have bitterly learnt and that is, I too was forgotten, I was not believed when I broke my silence and I was left alone to try and make it, try and heal and try and reclaim my sanity, the thing is, if I forget the millions of victims out there I too will continue to be forgotten, I too will become irrelevant and I too will not even be a memory.

Pain passes the comprehension of the mind and stings like a craved demoniac and for the victims of violence this pain leaves lingering pangs which at times only the darkness of the night can help with for the sun of the day, faces and voices which we see and hear add more pain to the sorrows of our hearts.

Because pain is still alive, because abuse is still relevant, because women are still hated just because they are women and because children are daily violated and sold as pieces of merchandise to the highest bidder for the sexual gratification of unwise and foolish men, because policy makers and governments do not see the issue of child abuse and domestic violence as a national issue and because women and girls are very slowly becoming endangered. I will not keep silent, I will stand with leaders across the globe face to face and online in defence of our sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and ourselves.

I will take the shame, I will accept the ridicule and I will fight using non-violent protest and the power of the internet, the power of the pen, and the power of my voice though voice though feeble, to let my voice be a voice for the protection of women and girls in the now generation, past generations and future generations, violence against women and girls must never be allowed to rear its ugly head in the lives of our nation’s future leaders, as Thomas Paine said if there must be trouble let it be in my day so that my children may have peace; if there must be trouble let us all face it today so that future generations may know peace.

We must NEVER forget! If we forget we too shall be forgotten, we must never rob the present and the future of our collective memory and we must never cheapen or make banal our experiences with violence and we must forever remember those who died for we are their memory our hearts their museum and our voices their justice. We must forge ahead. Because violence touched my life, it must never be perpetuated to touch theirs. It ends now!

But I cannot forget the glimpse of hope in the midst of darkness the voices of some men who are rising to support women and be agents of change, the increasing amount of women who are finding their voices and breaking their silence, the power of the internet to facilitate an environment where women can be trained, lead and be empowered to sustain change and the empowerment of our young people who are the leaders for tomorrow, can more be done? the answer, we have only just begin to put some scratches in the surface soo much more needs to be done. And we all must get involved.

Comments 6

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Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi
Mar 16, 2016
Mar 16, 2016

wooooow well said. What a very inspiring article. Yes we must fight for women and children today and the future generations. I love your strength and positiveness . It is becuase of people like that women and children will one day be free of forms of abuse and violation. Thanks for sharing and continue to post beuatiful articles. Stay blessed my dear sister

Sherna Alexander Benjamin
Mar 16, 2016
Mar 16, 2016

Thank you very much for your kind words and yes we must continue to use our voices, to make sure that the social issues which affect women and girls are continually heard and we must do it together as a sounding chorus across the globe our voices for the future must ring out in raptorous advocacy for our sisters. I look forward to hearing your voice and keep up the great work which you are doing.

ARREY- ECHI
Mar 16, 2016
Mar 16, 2016

Wooow  *** drops mic***! Very powerful voice here. I am sorry for all what you went through at that tender age by people you looked up to shelter you from the horrors that became a part of your life. But RESPECT for not letting these dark moments define you and for reaching out to help others. Yes the 'girls must be seen and not heard' is letting many girls suffer in silence and shame. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for using your experience to be that voice! More grace to your efforts.

Sherna Alexander Benjamin
Mar 16, 2016
Mar 16, 2016

Strength is often born out of pain and the experiences which we endure. Those dark moments defined my life for so many years and now I am defining those moments by using by voice though it may be feeble and shakes.

Our voices, our speech is one of the most powerful things which we have, one of the most precious and one of the most valuable when it is taken we remain with thoughts which cannot be expressed, we remain with pain which cannot be shared and we remain with memories which soon become irrelevant and cheap and then we become invisible.

Invisibility allows the perpetrators to continue their crimes against women and children, it allows society to believe that all is well and such acts of gross violence is not taking place and it allows the victims to begin to doubt their own truth.

We must reclaim our voices, we must have spaces where women and girls can tell their truth, tell their experiences of pain and in doing so begin the journey of survival. No longer should "girls be seen and not heard"

Stephanie Auxier
Mar 16, 2016
Mar 16, 2016

Sherna,

Thank you for so honestly exposing your scars to us. Your story deeply touched me, and even through the ugliness of what you have experienced, the power and strength of your words and your spirit shine through. Thank you for showing us what it means to survive. With a voice and passion like yours, you most certainly won't be forgotten. 

In solidarity,

Stephanie

Pushpa Achanta
Mar 21, 2016
Mar 21, 2016

Dear sister Sherna,

Your courageous candour and hopeful words shook and moved me. Keep expressing yourself, my friend. It's vital for us to urge and support survivors of sexual abuse and violence to share their stories as that heals and inspires.

Best wishes for your initiatives. May your peace spread.

Much warmth, love & solidarity,

Pushpa