An orphan's tale of repeated sexual abuse

An orphan's tale of repeated sexual abuse

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

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Orphaned at the age of three, sexually abused by her grandfather until she was 10, a teen mom by 15, homeless at 16, Shaneille Hall has endured more than most people.

In a moving address to Parliament yesterday, during a special session on violence against children to mark the United Nations' 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Hall shared the traumatic life she has lived over her 19 years on earth.

As Hall recalled that from as early as five years old her grandfather, who along with her grandmother had assumed responsibilities as her legal guardians, had begun performing what she later understood to be oral sex on her, Opposition parliamentarian Natalie Neita was seen wiping tears from her eyes.

That abuse, Hall said, was accompanied by fondling of her private part before he eventually raped her.

“My grandmother seemed to be aware of what was happening, but up to this day I still don't understand why she did not stop it,” Hall told legislators.

“She knew. If she would come in the room and see us alone she would say, 'Shaneille, come out the room.' Like, she would say, 'You know what you looking for.' Stuff like that she would say. Even if I was sleeping with my grandmother and he would come home — you know he and my grandmother sleep together — and, say he comes on the bed as well, he would have his hand over on me and all those things. He stopped living with us for some time, but he would still come over to the house just so he can do it to me. He used to do oral sex on me. He would use his finger and I remember at times when he tried to use his penis,” Hall told the Jamaica Observer after her presentation in the House.

She said it wasn't until she summoned the courage at age 10 to confide in her aunt, who she said was also a victim of her grandfather's abuse, that it ended.

“I had an aunt in Kingston who took me for the summer break, and she kept on asking me about if my grandfather was touching me. I always told her no. Every time I came for the holiday she asked and I told her no. One day she asked again and I decided that I was going to tell her the truth. So I told her yes, and she asked if I was keeping it for so long. She then told me that 'he did it to me too,' and she told her mother, which is my grandmother. They asked him, and you know he is going to say no, and it ended there,” Hall said, adding that the matter was reported to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.

Her grandfather was later arrested and charged.

“Going to court, it lasted for three years. So I would go constantly for three years until I became tired of it. I didn't want to hear anything about the court. I just wanted to stop. I didn't want to see him. I didn't want to see anybody from the family. I just wanted to stop, and so I stopped. Even counselling, I never used to say anything. I would just sit there and cry and they talk to me then I left. It never helped me. I went two times and that was it. I didn't get any counselling. So I don't know what happened to the case,” Hall recounted.

She said the years of abuse turned her into a rebellious child and destroyed any sense of self-worth she should have had at that age.

Her family eventually turned her over to the then Child Development Agency, which placed her in State care.

Life was miserable, she said, adding that she turned to a male friend for comfort and became sexually active at age 14.

A year later, she discovered that she was pregnant and that her child's father was on the verge of migrating.

Ultimately, she became a single mother whose family wanted nothing to do with her.

She found refuge with a distant relative who agreed to provide shelter for her and her child.

Hall said during that time, she enrolled at the Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation where she was able to further her education, acquiring six subjects from the Caribbean Examinations Council.

With the help of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, she is now pursuing a social work degree at Jamaica Theological Seminary.

Today, Hall wants stiffer penalties for child abusers, priority scheduling for court cases relating to violence against children, and greater support for child abuse victims.

“I would love if the justice system wasn't so slow. I would have a greater appreciation for our leaders if they could somehow speed up the court process. Dealing with abuse cases should be priority. Think about going through years of abuse and then have to go through years of court proceedings. It destroys you in every sense. You never forget what was done to you because you can't really get closure from years of court appearances. Three years in court and no outcome? That's a long time,” Hall told the Observer.

“And then I think they also need to provide some sort of support for children who are abused and left to suffer. It can't be that you sit in front of someone, cry and then leave. That is not counselling; that is not support. I don't think we get enough support, so I would like to see more of that,” Hall added.

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