Rally aims to empower women

The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre held its first Take Back the Night rally Tuesday as the final event of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Included in the programme were poetry readings, a survivor’s story, remarks from community members involved in this issue and even a song by children from the First Baptist Christian School.

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.

Kyle McLean, a CICC board member, welcomed the more than 40 people attending the rally, which included several children. The event was held in the Court House parking lot from 5.30pm to 7pm.

‘We join other countries in the world in acknowledging this event,’ he said.

Mr. McLean stressed the issue affects everyone. ‘In dealing with sexual assault, it will take every member of our community,’ he said.

Noting that there is a growing awareness of this problem and the need to deal with it, he added, ‘It is not only a women’s issue, men must also play an important role.’

Karen Baptiste, an instructor at the Purple Dragon School of Martial Arts, addressed the audience as well as led a demonstration of self-defence techniques.

‘I’m here to say to not be a victim,’ she told those gathered. Ms Baptiste then offered advice on how not to look like a victim.

She advised everyone to walk with confidence, with their head held high, and look people straight in the eye.

Ms Baptiste added that women should always walk in well-lit areas with a friend, park their car under street lights and get into their vehicle and drive away quickly.

If attacked, the victim should be prepared to use whatever is available as a weapon, such as car keys.

‘Don’t be afraid to scratch, bite or spit on the attacker. It will be easier for police to identify him,’ she added.

Ms Baptiste explained the importance of the right attitude. ‘Love yourself, protect yourself and refuse to be a victim.’

Ms Baptiste, along with her students, then demonstrated various self-defence manoeuvres that people can learn to ward off any attacker.

Estella Scott, CICC executive director, urged everyone to get involved with martial arts.

‘Parents need to do anything that can empower your girl children and your boy children,’ she said.

Community issue

Det. Insp. Richard Simms of the Royal Cayman Islands Police family support unit, offered his perspective on the related issue of domestic abuse.

‘Too many people believe that domestic abuse is a private matter for the couple,’ he said.

Mr. Simms added that people still will ask the woman what she did to upset her partner, implying that they think it is the victim’s fault.

He added that events such as Take Back the Night will help to educate the public that domestic violence is a crime.

This crime can be difficult to prosecute, however, according to Mr. Simms.

‘All too often, victims are terrorized by the fear of losing their life if they call the police. Silence is the batterer’s best friend,’ he said.

Mr. Simms urged neighbours to get involved.

‘Neighbours should call the police if their hear violence next door. Don’t turn up the TV,’ he said.

Medical personnel need to play a part as well. ‘Too often doctors accept the fearful victim’s version that the cuts and bruises were caused by falling. Doctors must ask, ‘Did someone hit you?’ ‘ Mr. Simms said.

He added that clergy can’t simply tell the victim to go home and make it work with their partner, as was done in the past.

‘We can’t tell victims what to do but we can make available options known to them,’ he said.

Awareness critical

Ms Scott stressed the importance of getting out as much information as possible.

‘Throughout this month, our goal has been to educate the public. We have spoken on child sexual abuse, incest, date rape and marital rape,’ she said.

Ms Scott cited generally accepted figures that one out of every four girls and one out of every seven boys will be sexually abused before they are 18.

‘We need to be vigilant. If our children are not informed, they are not prepared. Your child can become part of this horrifying statistic,’ she said.

Carolina Ferreira thought the issue important enough that she brought along three young friends to the rally.

‘It sparked a lot of different questions. It wasn’t too graphic or heavy duty. And the self-defence demonstration was something their age group could relate to,’ she said.

The girls, Alexis, eight; Kelsey, 10; and Hailee, 11, all were impressed by the martial arts on display, but Ms Ferreira believes they got more out of the evening.

‘We need to start empowering our young women from early on. I want to make sure at least kids that I know, know that sexual abuse is not OK. I had a childhood. I have to make sure kids today have theirs,’ she said.

Seeing people of all ages attend the rally was especially noteworthy for Ms Scott.

‘The fact that we could bring together children and adults to talk about an issue affecting both children and adults is significant,’ she said.

Pullout:

‘Love yourself, protect yourself and refuse to be a victim.’

– Karen Baptiste, instructor, Purple Dragon School of Martial Arts

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Samples of These Hands Are Not for Hurting project.

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Det. Insp. Richard Simms speaks about domestic abuse.

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A Purple Dragon martial arts student demonstrates self-defence manoeuvres.