Denisha Ramdhan is fed up with violence against women. Now, thanks to a social media movement, she knows she is not the only one.
“These stories are not about a piece of fabric. They are about our right to live our lives.”
“When the body of 20-year-old Shannon Banfield was discovered beneath boxes in a storage room on December 8, so many of us in Trinidad and Tobago had already reached our limit of pain. The glass was already full and this threw an ice cube in the glass, overflowing our emotions.”
“Shannon had been reported missing three days earlier. Her mother, Sherry Ann Lopez, said she would normally drop her only daughter off at workat Republic Bank and pick her back up every afternoon. But on that day, Shannon opted to travel home on her own—nothing out of the ordinary for a 20-year-old. Shannon called her mother around 3:30 pm, saying she was headed to two well-known stores on one of the busiest streets in Port of Spain, our capital city. That was the last time Sherry Ann Lopez spoke to her child.”
“Shannon Banfield’s face was plastered across various media platforms when she went missing, but there were no sightings of her. I can only imagine the despair Shannon’s mother must have felt when she received the dreaded call that her daughter’s body had been found.”
“This incident could have been quickly forgotten and swept under the carpet just like so many cases of violence against women. But this time, it seemed to hit home especially hard. The moment the news was released to the public, cries of pain, anguish, hurt, and depression were expressed across the country.”
“Some have argued that this case has gotten more attention because of Shannon’s complexion, or because she had long, beautiful hair. I don’t agree. I think the women of Trinidad and Tobago have simply reached our limit.”
“Why shouldn't we be spiraling in a fit of panic? We are outraged for the 200women who have been reported missing in Trinidad and Tobago in 2016. We are outraged for the 45 women who have been killed, and for those who have yet to be found. We are outraged for those who are still alive who are victims of rape and domestic violence.”
“To the men of Trinidad and Tobago, we need you to know how nerve-wracking it can be to be a woman in our country, our homeland. Why should we be afraid to leave our homes? Why can't we walk the streets without being harassed and without you making mention of our body parts? Is it even possible to go to a party with our friends and not have you gyrate on us without invitation?”
“Do you have to resort to name calling and insults because your advances were rejected? Do you have to try to run your filthy hands on our legs and make it look like an accident when we take public transportation? Why should we have to worry about cars pulling up next to us and whether we will never be heard from again?”
“It doesn't matter our race, nationality, religious beliefs, or financial status: We face a daily challenge simply by being women. We are verbally abused; we face sexual harassment on the streets, on public transportation, and on the job; many of us are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. We are constant targets and we get no days off from this life.”
“I am inspired by two Barbadian women, Ronelle King and Allyson Benn, who recently started the #LifeinLeggings movement to highlight women's sexual assault stories and show men how widespread these experiences are. As women began using the hashtag to share stories of abuse and harassment, others gained the courage to add their stories. This movement that started in Barbados quickly reached my country and has spread throughout the Caribbean region and beyond.”
“This hashtag gives me hope that the plight of women will no longer be ignored and that men will begin to understand and join us. Still, some men dismiss the violence we are speaking out about by citing the number of men who were killed in gang violence. Some choose to make fun of the movement, asking what response we should expect if we wear leggings in the first place. This, of course, is missing the point. These stories are not about a piece of fabric. They are about our right to live our lives.”
#lifeinleggings for me isn't about the women today but the women who have yet to come & how we can make the world a little better for them.”— Ronelle King (@IAmXilomen) January 1, 2017
#lifeinleggings When you see just how many of your female friends start to come forward with stories of domestic violence & sexual abuse :(”— Quintin Bynoe-Ogle (@QBynoeOgle) December 17, 2016
NO im not lazy for not wanting to walk or NO im not rich because i take taxi...... I AM JUST SCARED!!! #lifeinleggings”— Christina Clarke (@Mi_Nervouss) December 8, 2016
#LifeInLeggings is hours crying on the phone with your mum, not knowing how to tell her it happened to you too.”— Audra Leigh Knight (@FemmeOnTheRocks) December 3, 2016
“Shannon Banfield could have been any one of us. She was not somewhere where she wasn't supposed to be; she simply ventured into a store to purchase some items and ended up dead.”
“What happened to Shannon is what we fear most, but it is only one of the terrifying possibilities that we as women face. Thanks to the Life in Leggings movement, we now have many stories documenting our struggles. These stories are the first step to confronting the reality of women’s lives—and creating change.”
Q: "So, what did you do in 2016?"— Thicc like breadfruit cou cou! (@Niki_latoya_) December 6, 2016
A: "We started a revolution!"#LifeInLeggings”
Some of these #LifeinLeggings stories are so utterly heartbreaking. But.. stay the course. Read them. Become aware of what we face”— I am the storm (@smassaylaw) December 13, 2016
As a heartbroken sister, this is my plea to the men of Trinidad and the entire Caribbean: Please, we beg of you, just stop. Place some value on our lives, make us feel safe again. Fight for us, protect us, stand up for us.
I don't just speak for the women of Trinidad and Tobago, but for women across the globe. We need to get back some form of normalcy in our lives. From our homes to the streets, we need to feel safe again. We are your sisters, your daughters, your mothers, your aunts, your cousins, and your grandmothers.
And we are tired.