Rape survivor confronts, forgives abuser - Campaigners rally against violence against women
After being repeatedly raped by a relative from the age of 12 to 15, Monique McDonald has been on a campaign enlightening young people in different countries on issues such as gender-based violence and HIV prevention.
Though she admitted that her journey of survival was “not easy”, she told The Gleaner on Monday that she had already forgiven her relative.
McDonald was among scores of placard-bearing sex abuse survivors who participated in a silent protest to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. They took their message to the streets of Half-Way Tree, marching to Emancipation Park in New Kingston to end in a concert.
“Forgiveness is not easy, but we go through life skills lessons and it has helped me a lot. The question was if I wanted to move forward or remain [in the] same place. Those were questions that were popping in my head,” the 28-year-old shared.
“I decided to take a big step ahead. Since I did that, I have been travelling around the world. I went to South Africa recently, and these and some of the topics I informed them of were challenges faced in Jamaica as it relates to gender-based violence and HIV prevention,” she said. “I shared my story with them, and at the end of the day, people came forward and said, ‘I didn’t tell anybody, but you give me the courage.’ That is how I am helping to break the cycle.”
McDonald said that by the time her plight was brought to light, there was no one willing to stand with her. When she ran into her relative recently and badgered him on why he took advantage of her, he told her to “wise up”, McDonald told The Gleaner.
“Nothing came out of it because at that age, I didn’t have an adult to stand by my side in court. The judge didn’t recognise me. Justice wasn’t served. I had removed myself from the community I was living in St James to get help,” she said.
“I was able to forgive my relative. I saw him downtown (Kingston) the other day begging and he asked me to buy him some food. I smiled and bought it for him, but I eventually confronted him and asked why he did it.
“He said he was sorry and held down his head. What got me emotional was when he said, ‘Wise up’, and begged forgiveness, and I did forgive him,” McDonald explained.
Joy Crawford, executive director of Eve for Life, one of the stakeholders in the protest and concert, insisted that it is time that Jamaica take a stand against the abuse of girls.
“The theme is ‘Generational Equality – Stand Against Rape’. As an organisation, that is a big thing for us. Stop stigmatising our young girls. Stop saying, ‘It happened to me, so nothing is wrong if it happens to you’,” she said.
“We have brought into this space women who have all experienced violence and rape. Jamaica has a problem with the topic, and we know some of the factors, like poverty and families keeping secrets. Name the dirty old men and not turn them into sugar daddies,” Crawford implored the nation.