Domestic violence, spousal rape: A Bajan woman’s story

Love. Hate. Murder. Sometimes there’s not much time or distance in between…

“The abuse climaxed a Friday night in February 2008. Minus the details that, to this day, make me uncomfortable in discussing, he returned to the home, intoxicated, physically assaulted me over a period of seven hours and finally raped me.

I called the police. As I recounted the events of the night, what I recall most of this dialogue, was that it seemed very important to the police that I understand that I was not ‘raped’. Rape, two officers, made clear for me that morning, could not take place between a man and a wife, and unless they were separated a period of one year (it was seven months) and therefore legally separated, rape did not exist. As it were, we were still man and wife. Admittedly, while it was as hard for me to be subjective that morning, as it is still now – the police were not offended by this cruel and violent act, rather they spent their efforts that morning in humiliating me – in diminishing the occurrences of that night to something insignificant and of little consequence, while to me, the events of that night had possibly more reverberations onto my life than any other event of my thirty-three years.

It was also the first time I had ever felt ashamed to be a woman.

I was in the same position as I had been previously – worried that a charge would simply result in a fine, worried that a charge would inflame my abuser. I attempted a different strategy. I went to the doctors. I documented my injuries. I went to court. I made an application for a restraining order. I brought it back to the police station in order that they would serve him.

And then, even while the swelling of my bruises were still subsiding, I was metaphorically struck again. The police officer on duty read the application. He volunteered at no prompting from anyone, to offer to me – and a room full of people, including neighbours and even a colleague – his opinion on the matter; that unless I had been separated for a period of one year, I had not been raped.

Mortified, I left the police station and ruminated on the insensitivities of men. I decided that as I am taking a stance against one abuser, I would not tolerate abuse from another. I returned to the police station and very calmly and rationally, asked the police officer, not in his capacity as servant of the law, but as one human being to another, to please show me some sensitivity.

His reply was that if I had an issue with him, I should direct it to the station sergeant. I left ashamed now not only for me, but for him as well.

My abuser was not served the application for a restraining order for over a month. Despite my very frequent calls to the police station, to the bailiffs, to my lawyer, to Central Police Station, to the court house – despite me providing frequent details as to his whereabouts (he was always very easy to find) – despite my pleads for protection, I did not go to court over the matter until April…”

Read the full article as Juliette Maughan helps a victim to tell her story: Domestic Violence in Barbados: Who will protect the victim?


Filed under Barbados, Crime & Law, Culture & Race Issues, Human Rights

14 responses to “Domestic violence, spousal rape: A Bajan woman’s story

  1. 114553-78C

    SO MANY of our laws
    (not just the domestic ones)
    Need updating to the 20th. Century.

    Yes, I’m perfectly aware we are now 11 yrs into the 21st. Century
    –which started in 2001, not in 2000–
    but I’d be glad and grateful to get our laws out of Victorian times
    and up to 20th. Century standards.

  2. what will they think of next

    Dont forget this is her side of the story.

  3. St George's Dragon

    @ WWTTON
    I think the point is that it may be “her side of the story” as you so charitably put it, but if she is not allowed to put it before a Court, there will be no opportunity for a jury to decide whether a crime was committed or not.

  4. what will they think of next

    why”Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

  5. victor

    Yes, it is her side of the story but nevertheless, medical reports and witness statements showed evidence of physical violence. The accusations need to be subjected to judicial scrutiny.
    His side of the story is that he has been publicly accused of violence and rape. If he is not at fault he should be allowed to clear his name. This can only be resolved in court, where the court will decide who is in the right and who is in the wrong. At the moment because he has not been called to account, there is the implication that he is not at fault.
    Let’s look at the facts in court and then make that decision. If he is exonerated the implications/rumours will inevitably stick but at least he can say that he was found innocent in court. If nothing is done, this person could go on to carry out more attacks. If he is found guilty the court’s decision will help to provide precident in future such cases and ultimately be a deterrent to men who think they can attack their wives just because they can.
    Marriage does not confer ownership of one spouse’s person by the other, to abuse and rape as if one of them had no choice, since they are “owned” by the other. On the contrary, the marriage vows contain the words “with my body I thee worship” not “with my body I will subject thy body to violence and rape thee whenever I feel like it”.
    Marriage does not make it OK to whack one’s husband over the head with a frying pan or to punch one’s wife in the face, regardless of being drunk or in a bad mood. Let’s go with the rest of the civilised world and make spousal/post spousal abuse a crime in law and drop this ridiculous idea that you can keep on whacking and raping your wife for a whole year after separation!

  6. robert ross

    Under the Sexual Offences Act 1992, the concept of spousal rape is limited to the case where there is in existence (a) a decree nisi of divorce; (b) a separation order; (c) a separation agreement; and (d) a non-molestation order for the husband not to molest his wife or have sexual intercourse with her. Most Commonwealth Caribbean territories have refrained from following English law on this which recognises spousal rape without any form of limitation. Some territories, eg T & T, recognise a ‘lesser’ form of spousal rape known as ‘sexual assault’. Why are we so backward on this?

  7. robert ross

    @ BFP

    I am very glad that ‘What Will They Think of Next”s comment has been posted. This is NOT to cast any doubt on the story of the author of the post but simply to make the point that in domestic cases of any kind there is so much which simply does not come to light from either side of the other. I will give one example. I once interviewed a charming young lady who alleged the man she was living with was beating her. She was very convincing. As I saw her off the premises I noticed a man waiting for her to take her home. I asked her who it was. She told me it was the man. Mentally I registered ‘You what?’ and so called them both to my office. Under further questioning, it transpired it was the woman who had been beating the man not the other way round.

  8. Andy Smith

    I do not seek to question the veracity of the victim’s account posted here or even try to place the complexities and nuances of a contract in any relationship.

    What I say, however, is that if sexual advances are rejected by an individual but then force is used to impose the sexual act on essentially the victim, then rape has occurred. This is an internationally accepted premise, although the situation is not always so clearly defined everywhere.

    Even if we find in Barbados that the above definition is not satisfied, when taking a moral or humanitarian standpoint, it is incumbent upon the individual not to victimise another person for emotional or physical comfort or gratification.

    What is interesting about the sex abuser, and I will use the male person advisedly, is that he is driven by specific triggers. Domestic violence, I mean beating, is sometimes a prerequisite to sexual abuse, as is alcohol and/or drug use. These given triggers are not exhaustive because we have all heard of jealousy, infidelity and too much love stories. I am sure that there are others.

    Many abusers, if not all, have had visitations of problematic episodes during their formative years. They may have observed what, at the time, may have been considered to be unremarkable sexual contact between adults but these occurrences may have been crucially impacting the psyche of the young person. Such situations can lead to the early onset of deviant behaviour, which then can affect moral decision making. Although there is a school of thought that would mark violent or sexually abusive people as being genetically flawed, I take the view that much of this conduct is learned behaviour with additional factors. Further, in some very straightforward circumstances, people sometimes vent their frustrations on others when they are angry or suffering disadvantage.

    Most certainly the link between sexual abuse of any kind, including domestic rape, has at its core criminality. Failure by the authorities to tackle such conduct leaves a void in the confidence of women and children, who are more likely to be victims, to conclude that their case or complaint has no worth. Victims should be protected and perpetrators should be properly tackled and prosecuted where their unlawful conduct can be evidenced.

    I am saddened by this posting because I see a desperate victim receiving no sympathy, whatever the powers of the police, and a response from the latter which tells me that there is a lack of proper disciplinary procedures or other firm procedures for dealing with inappropriate behaviour by a public servant.

    Domestic violence and sexual abuse is a difficult subject in any language. It is a matter that transcends issues of race, faith, culture and so forth, but I am certain that Barbados will catch up in time and be pragmatic in the protection of its citizens.

  9. robert ross

    @ Andy Smith

    The premise in your second paragraph is correct. The ‘sacred’ exception to it until very recent times has been the context of matrimony. The Caribbean lags behind the rest of the world in jettisoning the exception.

    Matrimony in principle is no protection from other forms of physical violence. It is true, however, that in the case of alleged matrimonial violence the police are slow to intervene for the sorts of reasons I gave in an earlier post. The ‘safest’ additional course is to seek a non-molestation order from the Court through an attorney.

    Sexual abuse of children raises different and more complex considerations. Where there is any hint of that the first stop is the Child Care Board.

  10. Mark Fenty

    It is important that we respect the right to intellectual freedom, which is a fundamental human- right according to the United Nations Charter on
    Human Rights.

  11. Mark Fenty

    I know many here would agree with me when I say, that it is quite difficult to legislated stupidity. However, the issue of domestic violence has been intricate interlaced within collective tapestry of the Barbados culture for far
    too long. So in essence, this presents some challenges in terms of reeducating the general public as to the immorality of this behavior. now, if we have the common- man, those in authority, such( police, lawyers, judges), believing that this behavior is acceptable, then progress is obviously going to be slow as far enacting effective legislation which acts as a deter to this uncivilize practice.

  12. Mark Fenty

    It all boiled down to educating the public about the indignity of this kind of behavior, and what it does to the spirit of a woman, or a man for that matter. You know, it has been said that, “What goes in the human mind, has the power to change what he or she thinks, what he or she believes, and ultimately how he or she behaves.”
    We have to abandon this antiquated and animalistic way of thinking which culture has inculcated upon us. And come to a plain realization that no one has the right to abuse any person psychologically, emotionally, sexually, or physically etc.

  13. Mark Fenty

    Finally, the issue of domestic violence entails the wide spectrum of dysfunction behaviors. Some seems to think that domestic violence only entails the brutalization of the female species. No, it also involves the
    psychological and emotional terrorization of the victim’s sense of self, or self- image.

  14. Reblogged this on turcanin. cu ţ. and commented:
    “I shall beat you,’ he said, looking at her.
    “‘How else should I know you loved me,’ she answered.”

    “My first husband, Captain Johnson, used to thrash me regularly. He was a man. He was handsome, six foot three, and when he was drunk there was no holding him. I would be black and blue all over for days at a time. Oh, I cried when he died. I thought I should never get over it. But it wasn’t till I married George Rainey that I knew what I’d lost. You can never tell what a man is like till you live with him. I’ve never been so deceived in a man as I was in George Rainey. He was a fine, upstanding fellow too. He was nearly as tall as Captain Johnson, and he looked strong enough. But it was all on the surface. He never drank. He never raised his hand to me. He might have been a missionary. I made love with the officers of every ship that touched the island, and George Rainey never saw anything. At last I was disgusted with him, and I got a divorce. What was the good of a husband like that? It’s a terrible thing the way some men treat women.”

    “‘But are you never bored or lonely?’ I asked.
    “‘Mon pauvre ami,’ he said. ‘It is evident that you do not know what it is to be an artist.'”

    “Women are strange little beasts,” he said to Dr. Coutras. “You can treat them like dogs, you can beat them till your arm aches, and still they love you.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Of course, it is one of the most absurd illusions of Christianity that they have souls.”