News

Rape trauma lingers

J'can woman struggling to recover from ordeal in Barbados prison

BY KARYL WALKER Observer online news editor walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 23, 2012    

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THE Jamaican woman who was raped in the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados after being arrested for attempting to smuggle four pounds of marijuana into that country last year, says the emotional trauma she suffered is still a heavy mental burden.

The woman was convicted and sentenced to 20 months in prison for her crime, but before she could even face the Barbadian courts, two male policemen allegedly raped and sexually assaulted her with the assistance of a female officer.

"It is still hard to recover. The thought of what they did to me stays with me every day. I can't even get intimate with anybody. Me and my boyfriend mash up and my world will never be the same," the 28-year-old woman said as she fought back tears.

The Sunday Observer broke the story of the woman's plight while she was still imprisoned, in an award-winning story entitled 'Jailed and raped in Barbados' which was published on April 11 last year.

The woman — whose identity cannot be revealed because of media guidelines designed to protect rape victims — told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview following her release from jail and subsequent return to Jamaica, that her mind was still terribly tormented.

Last year, in a copy of her signed statement obtained by this paper, the woman described the rapes, sexual assault and verbal abuse. She said last week that she had had constant nightmares in prison where the attacks replayed like a movie.

Her ordeal began when she arrived at the Grantley Adams Airport in Bridgetown, Barbados on February 26, 2010 and customs officials discovered that she was attempting to smuggle in the contraband in a false compartment in her hand luggage.

After she was taken into a small, dank room by the customs officials and police officers who came to arrest her, the woman said she was subjected to an unusual strip search.

"They locked the door and told me to take off my clothes. I took off my clothes. There was this fat one. She told me to squat, and I squat and coughed and she had her head underneath my vagina. So I started to get rude. I asked her if this was normal procedure for her to have her head under my crotch," the still distraught woman said.

The dehumanising strip search was the first in a string of abuses the woman said she was forced to endure, including being accused by the female customs officer of being one of the Jamaicans who came to "mash up Barbados".

She was carted off by the police to the Oistins Police Station where she reportedly gave a statement but was refused a phone call and the chance to seek the advice of an attorney.

A few hours later she was transferred to the Central Police Station where she was placed in a cell by herself. Soon after, a policeman was let into her cell by a female cop on duty who forced her to take a tablet and ordered her to remove her panties before raping her mercilessly.

"When I took the tablet I was floating. He had his way with me, but I allowed it because I was afraid," the woman said adding that the man ejaculated on her dress.

Soon, another cop, who she said seemed to be heavily intoxicated, was let into her cell by the same female cop and he forced her to drink an alcoholic concoction before sexually abusing her in an even more demeaning manner.

The cop, she said, tried to force her to perform oral sex and persisted despite her refusal to comply. She said the cop ejaculated in her face and on her chest. When he had finished, the cop then took her clothes wiped up his sperm and left with them.

"I vomited throughout the time he was going on with me," she said.

Admitting that she was, in fact, guilty of attempting to smuggle contraband into Barbados, the woman said she was willing to serve her prison term, but questioned if sexual abuse was part of her sentence.

"I was never even taken before a court yet and this was how they treated me?" she told the Sunday Observer.

She said prison authorities ordered her not to speak to any of her fellow inmates about the incidents and female prison staff even mocked her openly about it.

"The woman ask me if my man never (had rough sex with me) yet. I said I have never been raped before. Even if I was guilty of a crime should I be punished by being raped?" she asked.

The woman said the 20 months she served in the Barbadian prison were the hardest time of her life. She said she was given the opportunity to get counselling only once and that only happened after the intervention of her Jamaican attorney Jaydene Thomas, who is based in Barbados.

The complainant also said that she feared the policewomen more than the men.

"My biggest fear is not the men, it's the women; because the women are the ones who let in the men and let them rape me. I made several complaints about the rape and no one was listening," she said.

Two of the cops, Constable Jonathan Barrow, of Pasture Road, Haggatt Hall, St Michael, and Woman Constable Melanie Denny, 25, of No 40 Golden Mile, St Peter have since been arrested and charged.

Barrow is charged with serious indecency, while Denny is facing a charge of aiding and abetting. Both are on bail and the case is set to again be mentioned later this year.

Another policeman who allegedly raped the woman is still to be arrested. Barbadian authorities suspect he has fled the island for fear of prosecution.

"That wicked thing that they have done to me will live with me forever. I don't go out much anymore. I just stay in. I have still got a long way to go before I can be normal again. It was the worst thing that has ever

happened to me in my life. I still feel violated," the woman said.

The woman said she is planning to sue the state of Barbados for subjecting her to such dehumanising treatment but is not sure if she can muster the strength to ever re-enter that country to tell a court of her ordeal and face her abusers.

"I am scared of that place. I am not sure if I want to even hear the name of that place. I agree I was wrong to take drugs there, but those people who did that to me were monsters. They acted as if they did not have mothers, daughters, sisters or any female that is dear to them," she said.

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