Has the System Failed Women Again?

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In case you haven’t heard, “the system” has yet again failed our young women; this according to people both in and out of said “system”, who made the re-revelation this past week as the nation grapples with two cases of violence involving three women. Sadly, the real reason for the plight of these young women has been ignored as we hurriedly point fingers at the most convenient culprits.

The reasons for blaming “the system” seem pretty clear. From her story Juliette Morissette appears to be a poster child for the failure of justice in Saint Lucia.

At fifteen, Juliette’s mother said she found her sleeping at the home of a man. While staff of country’s health care system apparently did not report the case of statutory rape, neither did Juliette’s mother, family, neighbours, teachers, pastor, priest, or friends. Not even counseling or psychiatric help appeared to have been sought for Juliette.

But many of us know from experience that seeking help does not mean one will find it, as in the case of the unnamed accused teen murderer of Ciceron. This intelligent young girl “should” be in an accelerated programme in one of the best schools, she “should” be on the way to a bright future. Yet she is incarcerated, with the prospect of long stretch of imprisonment or life-time criminality.

However, like her victim, who was also labeled a troublemaker, she only came to the attention of “the system” because of familial neglect. The lack of proper social support structures also ensured that efforts within “the system” would not save her or her victim. They were too much trouble for hard-working, going-beyond-the-call-of-duty teachers, priests too busy baptizing babies of unwed mothers or civil servants trying to keep costs down in the ministries.

The police and justice system also failed Juliette when after having the guts to have the police arrest her partner who bit a hole in her breast, her nerves failed when it came to prosecuting the case.

Juliette’s state of mind as a victim of statutory rape and long-term spousal abuse was not taken into account Although all over the world it is acknowledged after years of research, that such victims, whether women or men, learned or uneducated, rich or poor; tend to be afraid of, or protective of their abusers.

Even when we heard of her back-and-forthing in front of the mall before facing her abuser, many refuse to even consider that she was in a state of mental chaos, battling fear and/or indecisiveness.

When she finally faced him and he delivered that first cutlass lash, Juliette’s attacker ran away on realising he was being watched by KFC staffers. But he returned to continue to attack her when no one took action. Was it “the system” at fault then? Is it the system that allowed the number of slashes to fall on her in broad daylight, disabling her and almost making her a fatality; which she may still become?

Juliette has walked a road of escalating brutality which most of us accept as just part of some relationships and no cause for outside concern or interference. Now her last clash with her abuser, boyfriend and father of her three children, has finally made Saint Lucia speak out on her behalf….too late!

However the accused teenaged murderer of Ciceron is getting no sympathy from the public and neither is her victim. As this 13-14 year old is the perpetrator and not the victim of violence, the public has anticipated the appeals for pity and is having none of it, failing to ask what has caused her to reach that stage and what can be done to reverse her slide into villainy.

Again, despite all the evidence from the rest of the world that shows many criminals can and have been rehabilitated, Saint Lucia remains stuck in the eye-for-an-eye mentality, cleaving to the word of the Lord as interpreted and fed to them by pastors, priest and ministers of all stripes who have their own agenda. 

While we are ever-ready to “tie your waist and pray”, we  should remember that we have all been given physical and mental abilities as well as the capacity for empathy and love, which can help us surmount the hurdles facing us on earth. Zacchaeus saw Jesus and saved his soul not by praying but taking decisive action. The abuse of women, neglect of children and of pridefulness of men may just be our “Sycamore tree” that we have to find a way to climb in order for our nation to see the way forward.

“The system” after all consists of all of us, and when “the system” fails, so does each and every one of us.

Published in The Thursday Voice Newspaper, June 18, 2009. Online at http://www.thevoiceslu.com/

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