St. Thomas — It’s been a monumental week for social change in the Virgin Islands, even if you missed the most revealing part of the week. One week ago, I submitted an editorial to news organizations to start an important conversation in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In this editorial, I opened up about being sexually assaulted during my senior year in high school at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School. I also opened up about being approached by multiple adult males starting at age 15 in high school, even detailing a police officer that preyed on high school boys between 2009 and 2011 before I graduated.
The editorial touched on a few things in the community:
1. Lack of resources for LGBTQ+ students (especially males)
2. A school system that can become abusive if left unchecked
3. Older men who offer sexual favors to underaged boys and girls
4. How public humiliation harms victims and keeps predators safe
5. Adopting safe spaces in school to make reporting abuse and sexual assault more accessible to children and teenagers in public schools
One of the reasons readers can’t find stories about crime and murder on State of the Territory News is because — well, we just don’t cover those incidents. In the past, we’ve used data and statistics to discuss crime and its social and economic impact, but don’t regularly cover individual incidences of violent crime.
As the founder and only editor at State of the Territory, I’ve found that my personal experiences made it difficult to cover sensitive topics. The process of researching, writing and editing a piece that includes violent sexual acts requires mental strength and an ability to compartmentalize traumatic personal events.
I originally began writing pieces of the article in September, around the same time the SCOTUS hearings began in Washington. For years, I had pushed the assault to that back of my head because it happened in high school. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony to Congress changed that.
For any teenagers or adults who simply need someone to talk to, here’s a post with a few resources I could pull together that were available on Facebook. Sexual assault has become too common in the Virgin Islands and it’s time we take a stand.
Many people were touched, heartbroken, angry and some even relieved that a man had finally opened the door (kicked open the door) on being sexually assaulted by another man.
I’m sure there were a few people who were also shocked by the transparency, especially a young man openly speaking about his sexuality in an op-ed published in the Virgin Islands Consortium — the largest online newspaper in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Women’s Coalition of St. Croix has an insightful series that airs every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. entitled Silence Speaks, Secrets Revealed — the series airs on Isle 95. You can find the series on Soundcloud to hear Virgin Islanders speak openly about trauma, support systems and what I think might change in 2019.
One week later, I’m optimistic and hopeful that my editorial has empowered a young boy or girl somewhere, scrolling on a smartphone for a solution. I hope that my editorial has showed that it is okay for young men to talk about sexual assault without facing backlash.
I also hope that people are not sitting out this important conversation because it feels uncomfortable. I too, am uncomfortable with my own words of truth. There is work to be done and I’m hopeful that Virgin Islanders living at home and abroad are up to the task. It can only get better!
Editor’s note: Not sure why our embedded posts aren’t showing, working on a fix!