Thu | Feb 25, 2021

‘Babsy’ bares soul as bus sex-abuse victim - Rallies Jamaicans to battle violence against women, girls

Published:Monday | November 23, 2020 | 12:14 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Olivia Grange, minister of gender affairs, has her temperature read and hands sanitised by members of Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, before she entered the church. Sunday’s church service kicked off commemoration of International Da
Olivia Grange, minister of gender affairs, has her temperature read and hands sanitised by members of Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, before she entered the church. Sunday’s church service kicked off commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which will be marked on Wednesday, November 25.

Olivia Grange knows what it means to be sexually and physically assaulted in public.

And as the minister for gender affairs, she is determined to put a stop to brazen attacks on women and girls.

Grange opened up to the congregation at Power of Faith Ministries International in Portmore, St Catherine, on Sunday, using her very personal experience as a young girl to rally vigorous resistance to sexual predation.

Addressing a commemorative church service marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2020, Grange also announced 16 days of activism, starting November 22, centred on heightening awareness and raising alarm against violence against women.

The minister said the Church, warts and all, was well positioned to help push back against attacks, even by its own members.

Grange’s nightmarish ordeal occurred when she was 15 years old, born and raised in west Kingston but attending school uptown.

“One day I took the bus and it was packed. A man was standing behind me, and he started rubbing up himself on me. I tek my elbow and jook him and pushed him off me.

“The man boxed me in my face. It was real! Of course, the people on the bus took him on, and one man gave him a big thump for me. Whoever that man was, we should clap him,” Grange told the congregation, who responded with applause.

The gender affairs minister’s charge coincides with proposed legislation against sexual harassment in the workplace - a phenomenon on which there is no settled data on its prevalence but is widely accepted to be widespread throughout Jamaican society. Ongoing deliberations among a joint select committee are seen as crucial, inching steps on a wider journey to protect women against physical and sexual abuse.

Grange, on Sunday, urged every Jamaican to fight the scourge of violence against women and not to turn a blind eye to abuse.

“There is universality of women’s and girls’ experience in Jamaica, regardless of age, education, employment status, union status, or area of residence,” said Grange, who is affectionately called ‘Babsy’.

“The Church, like everywhere else in society, has members who are survivors, bystanders, and perpetrators. I am not throwing any stones, Pastor, but the reality is, it touches everybody.”

The gender affairs minister said she was alarmed that the World Health Organization had found that one in every three women worldwide has experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in her lifetime.

She also cited a Women’s Health Survey showing that one in every four Jamaican women has been physically abused by her partner and that one in every three Jamaican women is a victim of sexual violence.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com