Attendees at the Candlelight Movement meeting at the Barakah Grounds, Narsaloo Ramayah Road, Chaguanas, on Friday.

Traumatised sexual assault victim speaks

A sexual assault victim has called for sex education strategies that focus on the issues of consent.

The victim, Amrita Ramgulam shared her ordeal and the aftermath of her traumatic experience of being raped and abused by people she once called friends.

Ramgulam, a fragile and small young woman, struggled to hold back the tears while on stage during the Candlelight Movement’s second public meeting at the Barakah Grounds, Narsaloo Ramayah Road, Chaguanas, on Friday night.

Ramgulam said some men do not understand the concept of consent. She said, “Sex is a taboo subject in T&T and in the Caribbean, we need to have better sex education, we need to have talks about consent, we need to have talks about what is ok and what is not.”

She called on parents to monitor their children and guide them.

Ramgulam told the gathering that by the age of ten she was held up at gunpoint twice and by the age of 18 she was sexually assaulted to the degree that she experienced physical discomfort for days. She said she has been in situations where “so-called” friend took advantage of her.

She said, “Had there been as Sexual Offenders Registry it would have been impossible for what happened to me to have ever occurred. This happened to me six years ago in February…

“It is frustrating, I am drained on some days. I am here to tell you from personal experience how traumatic it has been. I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I suffer from severe panic attacks. I would hyperventilate, I would pass out.

“No one knows the trauma you live with after an ordeal, it affects everybody in different ways. I was victim-blamed, my parents blamed themselves…I was made to feel that something was wrong with me like my self-worth wasn’t there anymore because this happened to me. I was advised not to tell anyone this had happened because it made me less of a person.

“I have done a lot of healing. I had a support system that I am eternally grateful for. It is necessary to have support at the time but I had to realise that people would not always be there to hold my hand. At the end of the day when everyone goes home and everyone goes to sleep, it’s just me and my thoughts and I have to be strong to deal with that.”

Ramgulam aid she empathises with other victims and advised them to look for ways to self soothe. Ramgulam said she was confident that the Candlelight Movement would be successful. She said people have been lining up to sign the petition. She said the petition and the legislative changes the Candlelight Movement is calling for was being done for everyone, although people still hold to the misconception that this was being done only for Andrea Bharatt.

She said, “It’s not being done for Andrea, it’s being done for every woman, every mother, every child, every son, it affects everybody on such a big level. It saddens me that some people cannot see the bigger picture, it’s not just for one person.”

Sharday’s family awaiting DNA results, Sean Luke’s mom breaks down

Sharday Emmanuel disappeared in February 2018. Her father, Junior Emmanuel said Sharday was 20 when she went missing. He said a burnt corpse was found two years ago in the Santa Flora area. He said the only way they could be sure if the corpse is Sharday was through DNA testing. The father said the family was still waiting on the results. He said in the meantime, the person who abducted and killed his daughter is still on the loose.

Pauline Lum Fai, the mother of Sean Luke, a child from Orange Valley, Couva, who was sodomised and killed in 2005 at age six became emotional and could not speak. She wished the movement success. Lum Fai, who was in tears, was later consoled by Randolph Bharatt, the father of murder victim Andrea Bharatt.

Other speakers alluded to the shortfalls in the justice system.

PEP leader Phillip Alexander knocked Attorney General Farris Al-Rawi. He said the AG should stop putting on a charade and walking the streets with candles but instead seek to draft legislation for the betterment of law-abiding citizens. Alexander said the Government was dragging its feet when it came to the distribution of non-lethal weapons to women. He said the Government was coming up with all sorts of excuses not to empower women but leave them at the hands of attackers.

Alexander said the movement was growing and may very well get 250,000 signature on a petition to take to the Parliament. The main proposals are the decriminalisation of weapons such as pepper spray and tasers, fast-tracking the use of firearms for women, the regulation of the “PH” driver system, a commission of enquiry into the criminal justice system, and systemic regulation of the issuance of motor vehicle licences.

Alexander said “Ah hear one saying he guaranteed you by next week women will have pepper spray. I tell him now he lie and they trying this thing they try before and it not sticking, they telling you what they think you want to hear and they frighten now.

“Farris go in the Cabinet and meet with Young and useless, we want to fast track when a woman applies for her firearms users licence she must get it in 21 days and she must get full training how to handle and manage this weapon.”

Stephan Reis, Synergy TV host and member of the Candlelight Movement, recalled a large number of unsolved cases where the victims were brutally murdered and families were still awaiting closure.

Other speakers included Attorney Richard Jagessar, Candice Bharat and Inshan Ishmael.