Daddy from hell

AS a seventh-grade student just starting her high school journey, Natalia Clarke never thought that the arrival of the man she called father into her life would leave her permanently scarred.

But what should have been a bonding relationship between father and child ended after he brutally raped and beat her. Now, eight years later, she wears her scars with her head held high knowing she was a victim and did nothing wrong.

“I’ve always talked about it. Why should I be ashamed of being raped? I did not do this to myself,” declared Clarke recently.

Her ordeal started when she was just 12 years old living with her mother and two sisters, when her father moved to her home parish of Trelawny in the neighbouring community of Race Course, having been absent for some time. After she received word of where her father now lived an excited Clarke was quick to contact him.

“Growing up with yuh mother miserable [and] yuh mother always a beat you. Daddy comes around [and] is like an escape,” Clarke said.

At that age Clarke did not understand that her mother, Judith Chambers, was not “miserable” but that she had the drive to give her children a better life than the one she had lived.

“There are a lot of things weh mi usually go through weh mi neva want she fi experience, nor her sisters, so mi try fi protect dem,” Chambers said.

Sometimes Chambers granted Clarke’s request to visit places, including the occasional journey to her father’s house.

It was August 5, the eve of the Independence Day celebration, and the 12-year-old Clarke knew that her mother would not allow her travel to the parish capital of Falmouth to witness the celebration the next day.

So she made a request to spend the day with her father as she was confident that would be her route to attend the celebration. Clarke and her sisters went to her father’s house and, as predicted, he allowed the girls to travel to Falmouth.

They got back to her father’s house around 11:00 pm, after enjoying the Independence Day celebrations, and headed straight to the bedroom.

According to Clarke, before going to sleep she felt this unusual urge to bolt the door, and did. Unfortunately, a bolted door did not keep her father out.

“I woke up with him on top of me. He was trying to enter me, so the pain is what woke me up. I woke up and I started to scream ‘Rape!’ ” said Clarke.

“While I was screaming rape he was beating me, [with] punches to my face and my abdomen,” added Clarke. She later managed to escape and ran out of the house.

Traumatised, the then 12-year-old ran approximately 1.3 kilometres to Falmouth in only her bra. Bleeding and swollen, Clarke hid behind a shop, not knowing what to do.

“This Rastaman came out [of the shop] and asked what was happening,” Clarke said. “He gave me his phone and I called my mother.”

Chambers recalled her confusion after she got the call from Clarke.

“Is like mi turn idiot…Mi run go outta road barefoot then mi turn back fi mi shoes and mi can’t find mi shoes, mi can’t find nothing at all. Is like everything blank out,” said Chambers.

The concerned mother rushed to rescue her daughter and took her to the police station where they made a report. Clarke was then taken to hospital where she underwent an examination, which confirmed that she had been raped.

The following month school resumed but Clarke remained at home.

“I did not attend grade eight for the first two weeks because I was still swollen… my face was still swollen,” Clarke said. After the swelling receded Clarke returned to school but the top performer who had gone off on summer holidays was not the student who returned.

“When I went back to school I didn’t really care. I was fighting…and all sort of things started to happen,” said Clarke. At that time the police were unable to locate her father and Clarke was on a downward spiral.

Her misbehaviour at school saw her on the verge of being expelled before she changed her outlook on life.

“I think I just came to the realisation that none of this was helping anybody, and I just settled down,” Clarke said.

The troubled teen returned to being a star performer and was awarded top student accolades for several subjects from grades 9 to 11.

Now, at age 20, Clarke is pursuing a Baccalaureate in Communication Studies at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, Manchester.

But the agony of what she endured at the hands of her father has never fully left her mind.

According to Clarke, she has had those moments when she has just run out of class and burst into tears without reason.

Although it was not pleasant, Clarke never kept silent about her experience as a victim of sexual violence, and she and other victims like her are speaking up about their experiences.

According to a publication by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) of Jamaica, more than 700 new cases of gender-based violence were reported to the Victim Support Unit in the island between March and April 2020.

Since the start of this year there have been several reports of violence against Jamaica’s women and children.

Akecia Walker is a communications studies student at Northern Caribbean University.

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