It was as chilling a story as anyone could ever tell.
It was the harrowing story of a 34-year-old woman describing in disturbing detail to a hushed audience of leading jurists, including the country’s chief judge and a member of the region’s appellate court, the nightmare she endured over virtually her entire lifetime as she was raped over and over, and the flippant reaction of law enforcers towards her.
Alicia Bailey sent chills down the spines of some and brought tears to the eyes of others as she told this morning’s launch of the Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean how those close to her, including her own father, had raped her by the time she was four years old.
“At the age of four to six years old I was sexually abused by persons who were known as friends of the family. Onwards from that age, I was sexually assaulted into my adult years by my father, family members . . . I was raped on more than one occasion. Those experiences have left a stain on my life,” Bailey said somberly, causing some audience members to bite their lips.
Among those who heard her story were Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and other High Court judges, Madame Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee of the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice and Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados Marie Legault.
They listened intently as Bailey, in control of her emotions, lamented that to this day none of her attackers had been made to pay for their crimes.
She explained that this was because she was forced to drop the cases against her family members and refused to report a rape by a man years later after being told by a law enforcement officer it would not succeed because of her history of withdrawing charges.
What made her story even more unnerving is the fact that Bailey is the child of a rape victim, her mother also having been sexually assaulted by Bailey’s dad, with whom the mother never had a relationship. And despite having to recall the horror, the mother-of-three tried to force a smile as she shared her experience with the justice system.
“My first experience with the justice system happened when I was just ten years old. Due to my mum’s past experience with my dad, when I started to spend time with him, she asked me one day if my father was touching me inappropriately . . . which she explained to me what that meant. I told her ‘yes,’” said Bailey, who now takes her story to male inmates at HMP Dodds and church groups.
Bailey recalled her mother reporting the matter immediately to the police, who in turn suggested that she should see a doctor.
“I remember lying down on a bed in a room and being examined by a male doctor while two police officers . . . a male and a woman, watched. My mum was not in the room because she was asked to leave. I was frightened so I began to shake like a leaf. I did not know what to expect at that time. After the examination my mum was called and told in front of me that the abuse was evident.”
She remembered accompanying her mother to a meeting with a Child Care Board official but said she felt no better on leaving, with the multiple rape victim feeling annoyed that the official had sought to imply she only reported her father because she was trying to get attention.
Bailey also told those present when the case against her father first reached the court she was yelled at by a judicial officer several times during questioning, and accused of lying and seeking attention.
Her father’s wife then persuaded her to withdraw the charge, suggesting that “if you really love your dad, you won’t hurt him like this”.
However, this was not the end of her ordeal as her father would rape her again when she was 15, Bailey recounted.
Her mother again reported this to police, but a female officer suggested it would make no sense filing the report because she was “sexually active”, Bailey said.
Pointing out that she thought this meant her father had sex with her, Bailey told this morning’s event at the Courtyard by Marriott in Hastings, Christ Church, she vowed then never again would she turn to the justice system for help “because as a victim at the time I was made to feel that my past court case would hinder me from getting the necessary help I needed”.
She also recalled that her final experience with the justice system came as an adult after her cousin’s boyfriend had sexually assaulted her.
Bailey said the police officer taking the statement from her had flirted with me.
“It has been four years since that report was made and nothing has come of it. During the four-year period, I have had to deal with yet another sexual offence. This, however, was not reported as I had become weary doing so due to this last experience while reporting my statement,” she said.
The new guidelines fall under the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening Project project to improve the management of sexual offence cases and the treatment of witnesses and survivors of sexual offences throughout the region.
The guidelines provide guidance to justice sector stakeholders – judicial officers, attorneys, prosecutors, police and health and social care providers – during the life cycle of a case. They set the minimum acceptable standards for the provision of quality service and support to the survivors of sexual assault and equitable justice to all those involved.
Bailey said she was cautiously optimistic, although she warned that nothing would change unless the people who work within the justice system apply these guidelines.
“My hope is that the different individuals who work within the justice system will not only hear the words of the guidelines, but will do what they say,” she said.