Friday, April 15, 2011

The Cave

For the Women of St. Vincent & Any Volunteer Who Has Served or Will Serve in the Future

Having lived in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for almost two years, I grew to know (and love) the culture. For the most part, the people are loving and giving. They are honest. They are hardworking.

But there is a large part of the culture that is obsessed with sex. From the music to the cat calls, everything is infused with sex. Children are exposed to sex at an early age & that level of exposure doesn't ever seem to stop.

In 2007, the United Nations reported that St. Vincent and the Grenadines had the third highest reported cases of rape in the world. This statistic does not surprise me. The UNHCR reported that a citizen in St. Vincent was 98% more likely to be sexually assaulted than a citizen in America. Again, no shock to me.

So what do we do? (hint: the answer is not blame the behavior of the victim).

I am challenging us as Peace Corps volunteers and staff to start looking at sexual assault against volunteers in a different light. Women and men who have been assaulted or raped in the past, you did nothing wrong. Let me say that again, you did nothing wrong. Preventing rape and sexual assault against predators is nearly impossible. I will say that again too: it is nearly impossible.

Volunteers have been raped while in their homes. They have been sexually assaulted while riding vans. They have been raped at parties, while coming home from clubs. They have been raped by friends and boyfriends. They have been sexually assaulted by strangers.

I challenge us as Peace Corps volunteers and staff to find the constant in these incidences. Because it is not drinking. It is not being out late. It is not the level of our integration or our own personal behaviors. And attempting to blame the situation on any of these reasons is ignorant and purposefully damaging to the victim and the country in which we reside.

Our job as Peace Corps volunteers is to make a difference in our host country and within ourselves during our two year stint. And I can guarantee we are further handicapping our host country and ourselves by blaming the victim.

Now, we must all fear evil men. But there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men. --Boondock Saints