The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre is hosting a Take Back the Night rally Tuesday.
Part of the centre’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the event will include poetry readings, self-defence demonstrations and the recounting of survivors’ stories.
Estella Scott, executive director of the centre, stressed the importance of events like this to get out information on sexual assault and sexual abuse.
‘Take Back the Night offers women an opportunity to take what might otherwise be private experiences of injustice, and break the silence by publicly naming these wrongs,’ she said.
Take Back the Night rallies originated in England in the 19th century as a means for women to protest publicly about being unsafe at night. The first one in the US took place in 1978 in San Francisco.
These events have taken on broader meaning over the years, Ms Scott explained, offering women the opportunity to symbolically reclaim their bodies, their homes, their workplaces, their streets and their lives.
Ms Scott is also focusing on educating children. In addition to welcoming young people to the rally, she has been taking her message to the schools.
‘We have spoken to about 300 kids so far this month. These students have not gotten any information on this issue before.
‘We talk to them about child sex abuse, date rape and the date-rape drug,’ she said.
The centre has held sessions at various schools, targeting 13 to 17 year olds, and tailoring the presentations to be age-appropriate.
‘Every day that I’m in the schools, I’m reassured that what we’re doing is the right thing,’ Ms. Scott said.
The schools have been very supportive, she added, with teachers even pulling in students who are about to graduate.
The students ask questions and participate in discussions, usually without their teachers in the classroom to make them more comfortable about speaking. Her efforts are proving to be significant.
‘I have not been to any classroom yet where we have not spotted at least two kids who have been victimised.
‘When you have been doing this for so long, you can tell. It’s written all over their faces,’ she said.
These are children she feels strongly about reaching. ‘Our greatest hope is that the information we give will empower these children to seek help,’ she said.
During the sessions, the centre’s representatives encourage the children to speak to either a school counsellor or someone else they can trust.
Ms Scott added that the centre’s priority was young people, since 85 per cent of sexual abuse and sexual assault cases take place before the victim is 18 years old.
The centre is booked to talk at schools until the second week of May.
Ms Scott also stressed the need for communication within families.
‘Unless parents really start talking to their children, we will end up with more sexual assault cases.
‘Girls feel they can’t say no; they do not feel empowered. Boys also feel that girls can’t say no,’ she said.
Education is vital to changing these attitudes, Ms Scott explained.
‘Children have not had the necessary information before. We need to encourage them to be ambassadors of this information and to look out for their siblings,’ she said.
Another project that the centre started in the schools was to invite children and adults alike to trace their hands.
Participants then sign their drawings, pledging, ‘These hands are not made for hurting.’