Thursday, January 12, 2012

"What the guide told me", a poem - Haiti revisited

12th January day of the Haiti earthquake, 2 years on. Last month, I hosted and performed for two charity events, One By One For Haiti  and Haiti: Year Zero +2. Both events aim to remind us that the after affects of the disaster are still deeply resonating amongst the din of so many other news reports.

I found my attention turned to the women and the young girls who are living at high risk in the 'makeshift' camps, which should be places where all survivors can come together in mutual support of each other after a catastrophic event. In contrast, there has been an increase in their vulnerability. There  have been reports of up to "250 rapes in the first 150 days". Source: Women for Peace - Rape Crisis for Haiti: report.

It is never easy to talk about rape. Just the sound of the word alone is hard-hitting, chilling, anger-making. No one talks about it lightly. Though I've heard a few jokes round it that have made me guffaw purely because of the sheer brazen-ness of them. But in reality we've seen an increase globally in reported rape of both women AND men, an occurance so rarely talked about because of the shame.  But the true shame is in the value judgment placed of one over the other when the act itself is as dehumanising for humanity all round.  For whatever reason, attitudes toward sexual aggression is even more disturbing in its normalization towards women in the light of it being shocking and taboo for men.

 Also, it is under circumstances of crisis when the abhorrence of a crime against another human being such as rape becomes magnified, because we must consider how rigid attitudes
about the traditional roles of women  feed  a disregard for those who have been attacked; archaic attitudes of "know-thy-place"; attitudes that reduce the gravity of such a crime because it is only a woman, a poor woman, a woman of colour. 
It is in so-called developing countries where it is oft times the women who carry much of the economic burden, mostly from agricultural  and domestic work and who have the added responsibility of caring for the family.  While economic and political struggles against colonial and the  neo-colonialism of trade traps at local and national levels, women often find themselves struggling at the center of the endless cycle of poverty. Much of the responsibility to keep family head above water will fall upon the her shoulders when unemployment is high and mouths need to be fed. So it is deeply disturbing that with this backdrop, women's bodies fall into a disturbing sort of open season when a natural disaster occurs and refuge is sought in camps such as the ones pictured below. 

Needless to say (or is it?), ALL sexually aggression and abuse is heinous to the enth degree and must be reported, addressed for the psychosis that it is and healing shelters and processes should be supported, promoted and funded in accordance with all other  human rights abuses.  If we are to save the sanity of men, women and children who have been affected by rape, and not just those who have been direct victims but also their families and communities affected by the residual trauma, we must acknowledge that it is time to wake up to the hard reality of rape. Time, with active conviction, to nip any signs of the possibility of it occurring  or being perpetuated in the proverbial bud.
These camps have become been getting quite a bit of media attention. The numbers of in rape attacks in them has brought world wide attention but must envisioned in the bigger picture. As the planet shifts in eco-unrest, we are  all forced to consider who is the vulnerable are and how to protect them. How do gender roles previous to the disaster impact upon the aid, and restructuring that will ensure them of security and a future, and what are the immediate needs that will ensure their safety.

What the guide told me

"She is still here," said the guide,
points to the girl a short distance away.
The naive nuance of her laugh
travels on the scent of the insouciant breeze
A friend was braiding her hair. Then
she stops. Playfulness halted by a rigid chill . 
The skinny friends big eyes blink slow, 
enough breath space for incredible memory to be made real 
then she hugs her shoulders
wipes her face. They do not see
me watching.

There are no locks.
There was no knock,
just a hiss 
as the venom slid under
her mouth mashed 
by hot palm
her tongue 
in her belly now
"No!"exploding - 
shards - pinned 
under fathoms of poison
passing into her
stripping innocence from her bones.

A malignancy lingers,
a ringing residue, a hum that numbs the passing of that night.
It died a mournful death in a culture which celebrates
greetings from ancestors, who wait with a blanket
and sweet water in clay bowls.
A sad crossing from girlhood to womanhood,
a yard before her third menstruation,
a story away from joyous excitement
of her full blossoming.
Image source: Dangerous Camps. Click to go to article
"She is in the camp still. She has no-one, but she is brave."

The teeth went deep, 
the injection was clinical-
the venom clings.
The buff of a waterfall from free flowing virtuous rivers
over vertiginous ridges 
won't scourer her clean,
but the children will still play and women reason
rubbing suds and laundry on the rocks.

Her smile has returned - the soft measured plosives
of a friends careful words burst her absorption.
The skinny girl pecks her forehead,
returns attention to her hair.

And so it goes, till when she's ready
to release: grey stillness, intermittent flares of light - blaze.
She fights back the scent of semen - a chemical burn
on her virginity - the stain that spoiled a vista
of fresh vestal verdancy, now a wizened rainforest
on the broken belt of the coast seen from the satellite
of intermittent disembodiment

"It could be anyone.
The epidemic is spreading,
no one is safe these days."

"What is the antidote?" I say out loud.

"No one knows
yet. But the women have strong spines here."

written By Zena Edwards©

Helpful Links

RAPE CRISIS - England and Wales

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