This is my "Letter to the Editor" of the Nassau Guardian

My response to the Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act to include marital rape.

I support the amendment.


[ The Bahamas Government website ]


September 6, 2009


Dear Editor:

I did not want to share my family story with the public because it involves intimate aspects of my late Mother’s conjugal life and the memory of her abuse is still very painful.  After hearing and reading the Bahamas Christian Council’s statement on the amendment of the Sexual Offense Act, I decided to overcome my reticence and share part of this story with the public in the hope to engage, educate, sensitize, and help persons understand the dynamics of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

The Valleray family is considered the “bourgeoisie” of Martinique. My mother, Marguerite, was an educated and trained teacher who eventually became the first female to hold ministerial credential in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Local church historians recorded my mother’s accomplishment as the most successful evangelist who baptized, in her time, more persons than any male minister (except for her two sons, Guy and Joel). Her engineer father was the first person to own a vehicle in French Guyana. My father, Gerard, was an articulate, intelligent brigadier police officer whose father travelled throughout Europe as a colonel in the French army. Were they alive today, they would have been 87 and 95 years, respectively.

I was about eight years old when I got sick with the measles.   Wanting to protect my siblings, Mom quarantined me from them by allowing me to sleep on a cot in her bedroom.  Because of the terrible physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she suffered at my father’s hand, she developed angina. One night, while I was still sleeping in her bedroom, Mom got her regular chest pain and as usual placed the prescribed tablet under her tongue to relieve it.  Dad came home drunk and in spite of my presence in the bedroom, demanded sex of Mom. I could hear and see everything. Because Mom did not consent, he used his fist to beat her into submission and then raped her in my presence.

The landlord’s house was next to ours and one of their windows looked right into my parents’ bedroom through its own window.  My father, in his drunken stupor, did not care that their bedroom window was wide open when he demanded sex.  Mom suffered the indignity of being raped multiple times while the landlord’s daughter looked on from that window into theirs. Later on in life, she told us how terribly ashamed she was that the neighbor had witnessed this sexual abuse and that she could not hold up her head when she saw the neighbors.

After Mom’s death in 2001, my then 59-year old eldest brother, Guy, recounted how as lad, he used to come home and find my mother naked and unconscious on the floor, in a pool of blood, with the lentils burning in the pot on the stove. To this day, he cannot eat lentils.

My father used his police gun to terrorize Mom and his family. Mom reported the matter to his superior. Finally, his superior, Commandant N’Guyen, took the gun away from him. He then purchased a butcher’s knife to replace the gun and threatened to kill Mom with it. I vividly recall that night. All of us experienced sheer terror. The fear of Mom dying at my father’s hand was real and part our daily lives.   My 50 year-old youngest brother, Ralph, recently wrote an article for the “Union des Femmes,” an association of women whose goal is to combat domestic violence in Martinique.  What follows is a translation of an excerpt from his article.

“A child, I was, until my thirteenth birthday, the powerless witness of such a wave of violence! I keep a bitter and smarting memory of the suffering we endured and an eternal love for my mother who died December 2001.  Imagine, a little boy for whom time stops: a gun is held to his mother’s face, at a distance of less than a meter, by his father with his 7.65 loaded with all its bullets! I had to wait until I was 43 years of age when, in the office of a psychoanalyst, I could remember the positive side of my father, the calm and excellent man he could be when he did not drink like the inveterate drunkard he was! That day, I cried all the tears my body could produce!  When my father died in 1974, at the age of 59 of a heart attack, I remember discovering his remains at Clarac (hospital) and saying: ‘This is good!’ I was 16 years old.”

The most remarkable part of this story is that Mom had related the abuse she suffered to the pastor and the elders of the church.  They came home to visit Mom and told her it was her duty as a Christian wife to submit to her husband and to forgive him. They never did anything to hold my father accountable for his terrible actions.  Isn’t that the same kind of talk we heard recently from the president of the Bahamas Christian Council?  You do not appease a lion by throwing victims in its cage. “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them” Ezekiel 34:10.

“I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel, and a man who covereth himself with violence as well as with his garment says the Lord Almighty” Malachi 2:16. What God hates, he punishes. These so-called preachers of righteousness should not pervert God’s Word and picture Him as one who would condone or overlook violence against another human being in marriage. Violence against any human being is contrary to God’s principle of love and equity. “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law Romans 13:10.  Forcing another human being to have sex violates the most intimate and vulnerable aspect of personhood. It is immoral and a criminal offense. All criminal acts should be punishable by law, whether or not they occur in marriage. The Apostle Paul rightly says that only those who break the law should fear the punishment meted out by the law. “We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers” 1 Timothy 1:9.

According to the president of the Bahamas Christian Council, marriage is a contract and consent is given for sex when one enters into it, as though there is no time in marriage when consent can be legitimately and reasonably withheld.  It seems that once a woman is married, she loses her right to say “no.” A married woman in a wholesome marriage can legitimately say no to sexual relations with her husband when she is ill, is disabled by painful and heavy menstruation, suffers from sheer exhaustion from assuming all or most of the household responsibilities, and when her hormones play trick on her during pregnancy and she can no longer tolerate sexual intercourse. A menopausal married woman has the right to say no when a dry and thinning vagina caused by a drop in estrogen makes sexual intercourse extremely painful.  A married woman in an abusive relationship has the right to say no to an adulterous husband who sleeps around and comes home loaded with sexually transmitted infections, when he tries to impose on her offensive sexual practices, or when he uses sex as a weapon to control and humiliate her. 

A just society enacts laws that protect all its citizens regardless of marital status, especially the helpless, weak, and vulnerable. I implore the Bahamas Government to be courageous and to pass the amendment to the Sexual Offense Act. I also urge women who have suffered sexual abuse to have the audacity to share their stories (anonymously if needs be) and thus ensure the passing of this amendment.

Annick M. Valleray Brennen