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Changing channels to what really matters

Friday, February 19, 2016

It is amazing to me that it took the unfortunate murder of a foreigner and the remarks from an archaic and socially-removed leader to begin this conversation about women’s rights. This issue has been boiling under the surface for eons and affecting the women of T&T every single day. 

I cringe at how that must reflect our view of ourselves. Those of us who have waited this long, on this tragedy, to speak, must also bear some level of shame. But I digress. This column is supposed to be about sport and fitness. 

We have already lost Lady Chancellor…and now the Savannah! For women, there are few safe places to exercise alone, and in peaceful silence. We must brave the crowds of rush hour, where there is safety in hoards of strangers who compete with exhaust fumes for space. 

Yet, we must ensure that we are in our vehicles by sundown, or risk being harassed, assaulted or murdered under the cover of darkness. You see, we women forget sometimes, that exercise clothes, with their spandex tights and close fitting tops, which function to wick away moisture and allow for easy mobility and comfort, reveal our female bodies a little too much and make us vulnerable to perverse monsters.

We were reminded of this by one who has proven himself to be the “wrong Kee to our city,” a clever quip on a protest placard. Mr Tim Kee’s nonchalance and lack of social intellect infiltrates down the chain of command into the police service, to those who are supposed to protect us and fight for our safety and rights as women. As a fitness enthusiast who once enjoyed exercising in the relative beauty of Lady Chancellor, Chaguaramas and the Savannah, let me tell you some stories.

Rapes on Lady Chancellor are old news, and a trip up the road today outside morning and evening rush hours reveals an almost ghost-like silence…a product of the fear women now have for their safety. We may have heard fleeting details of the occurrences, but within a few days they were just old news. Trinidad moved on and women moved off the hill…we avoided, like Mr Tim Kee would say we should. 

Earlier this year there were reports of a “monkey” jumping down from trees around the Savannah and slapping women’s bottoms. The experiences of a runner at the hands of a different man also circulated among the fitness community.  Every time she ran the Savannah, she was harassed by this man who made sexually explicit comments to her, and stalked her for weeks on all her runs. She made numerous visits to the police station to make reports, and each time she was met with the nonchalance of the Tim Kee attitude. 

They seemed to think that it was status quo and “in we culture” for men to verbally harass women. After a couple failed half-hearted attempts, the police only finally caught him when the runner made them accompany her. It seemed that the police acted more out of annoyance from her persistence than out of a sense of duty to protect and serve. 

Kudos to this woman for her courage to claim her running space, and her determination to see that this man was removed. If it weren’t for her persistence, the stalker would be still a nuisance to female runners, or worse…“let your imagination roll.” 

No public news release was made by the police about this incident in any attempt to educate and protect those who use the Savannah. I was not surprised, especially after being the subject of some sexual comments from police officers a couple years ago while running on Ariapita Avenue. Allyuh fail bad! 

This just further underscores the engrained culture of female sexual subordination, the reprobate idea of masculinity in Western society, and the double standards of people like Mr Tim Kee, who used images of scantily clad women to advertise his “Mayor’s carnival fete,” yet blames women for being victims of abuse. Will the police carry this nonchalance into their investigation of Asami’s murder? 

But change is hopefully in the air, and Mr Tim Kee’s resignation speaks volumes to the power of public pressure and protest. May it continue. And maybe, just maybe, an intolerant and vociferous public can effect much needed social change. 

I pray that we do not get distracted by the political soap opera and Ian Alleyne’s Oscar worthy performances. I pray that we change the channel to focus on what really matters—justice for Asami; transparency and accountability in leadership; women’s rights. The list continues. 

In the meantime, some advice for the Tim Kees, the Clyde Pauls, the Chris Gayles: “Don’t blush babies”—Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Dem soucouyant comin!

• Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS, ATRIC is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Aquatic Therapy Rehabilitation Instructor at Total Rehabilitation Centre in San Juan.


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