Whenever someone ask me for the history of this organization I try to think of some great and grand thing which happened causing this organization to come into being, I try to think of some eventful and historical moment in earth’s history. I try to think of some prolific work which this organization has done for the reason of its being, I try to place some marvellous things which will catch the eye and hearing of the reader. However I always resort to the real history of this organization and that history is Sherna Benjamin, and every victim of abuse those known by me and those unknown to me.
I may not be a Martin Luther, or Mahatma Gandhi, but I have made a mark, I may not be a Nelson Mandela but I fought and I am fighting for persons freedom each day of my life, I believe that each of us are historians in our own right as we shape and make history in our corner where we are placed, each of us are silent heroes and our names shall go down in history because we have fought for the right, we have fought for justice, equality, transparency, and accountability.
Many persons are afraid of transparency or simplicity if you are such a person then the following history of this organization will not be appealing to you; however I trust that what I will write will be enough to be considered history for truly this is what it is.
O.A.B.I.: Organization for Abused and Battered Individuals, has been functioning since 2008, and if I dare to say my entire life, however it was given birth that year and fully organized in 2011, during those years we worked as the people will say “silently, educating, counselling, directing, and housing persons who have suffered under the hand of their abusers, children who have been brutalized, persons who have been raped, persons seeking safe housing and those seeking counselling.
We worked silently not looking for accolades or praise for what was and is our duty to do, we worked with no headline news or the video camera as a story-teller, we respected persons confidentiality and right to just seek healing, education, and help.
During those times I directed individuals to the relevant authorities the police, Rape Crises society, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Shelters, or to the hospital if I was not skilled to deal with their situation, time will fail me to recall the many visits where I accompanied victims to the places mentioned above.
The reason I founded this organization is to do something positive with the pain which I endured being emotionally, sexually, and physically abused as a child from the age of six to the age of 15 years, because of my experience, my pain, my fear and the many mistakes and errors in judgments which I made, the emotional turmoil, suicidal thoughts, shame, guilt, stolen identity as a child, anger, hurt, and seeking for genuine love, I had to speak out and reach out.
I cannot go back to change what happened, I cannot erase it from the history books which the unseen watchers has penned it in, however I can help others and prevent innocent children, women, and men from being touched by this evil.
I had to put on my Armour and enlist in this battle not by my choice but it was forced upon me, and as a soldier in this war against abuse I must free my fellow soldiers who are kept as prisoners of war.
After years of trying to evade my past I had to confront the demons I was running from, in doing so I had to educate myself on the subject the education and knowledge which I received and imparted into my life made me a better person emotionally and not bitter continually.
I had to accept that the abuse was not my fault, and seek to heal in all the areas of my life which was damaged. Looking at my life and what I passed through and even still going through as abuse is something you can never forget because there are the flashbacks and triggers but you learn to survive, you learn to become and remain a victor not a victim.
It dawned on me that my experience, was and can never be an isolated one, reflecting on my pain, my emptiness, my years of conflicts, and confusion of mind I needed to do something, I needed to be a voice to the voiceless, as I reached out to other’s I also was receiving healing.
During my nightly visits there was no one to protect me, there was no one who educated me in school, Church, television, radio, nor at social gatherings, there no one to ease my pain. Abuse was happening everywhere, but it was a taboo subject even up to now it is still a taboo subject in many organizations, families, communities, social gatherings, and nations many persons have placed a gag order on the subject so the victims are continually living in fear and shame, fear of the abuser and fear to speak out and reach out for help because of the misconceptions of many in society on the matter.
When I looked at children going home from school I often wondered and ask myself, what are they going home to meet?. Is it a home of love, care, support, and compassion or is it a home of fear, trauma, rape, and all types of abuse?.
When I encounter an angry worker or see an adult looking lost and bewildered I ask myself, has this person been or is being abused?
When I read the news papers and listen to the news and here of horrific cases of abuse I ask the question how can I reach out and help this person heal?, if the person has been killed I ask myself, how can I share and give information to educate and remove illiteracy on the subject?
When I see and hear of persons having to run to the police, medical professionals, and the Rape Crises society because they have been violated by strangers in the most horrific manner, when family and friends have to sit and endure the mental torment and physical agony of seeing their loved ones medically examined and tested for all manner of sexually transmitted diseases, when they have to sit through counselling sessions, and look at the fear in their loved ones faces, the shame of having persons know what happened to them, the fear to leave their homes, and for the duration of the sexual violation the victim wondering if they will be killed some have even said it were better if the abuser did kill them.
I could no longer remain silent, I had to get involved, when I had to comfort a young lady from church because her fiancé tried to kill her as she was subjected to months of abuse and torture, even her family was terrorized, when I had to look at the many stitches and the scars which this young lady has to live with for the rest of her life I had to get involved.
When the innocence of our children who are our future and our future leaders are glutinously taken away by the avaricious perverted appetites of predators and paedophiles sucking our children dry leaching upon them with devilish pleasure and ease, when our young women and men are captured and sold and traded as sex slaves and labourer’s in sweat shops for the monetary gain of those who find pleasure in this dark and deluded trade of sealed and perfected wickedness then I had to be a voice.
When I hear of persons taking their own lives because of being bullied and attacked I could no longer study myself I had to get involved, when families will call crying and asking for help because their relative was raped but begging me to keep that deadly secret I had no other choice but to get involved and fight even if I was the only one fighting I had made up my mind that silence was no longer an option for me, history has taught me that one solider can turn the tide of the battle and so I step into the ring to be an ADVOCATE against Domestic Violence and Abuse.
Even if it was my voice alone, it must be heard, even if I had to speak with one person at a time I had to do something, as abuse was surrounding me and it would be a criminal act for me to continue to remain silent, it is because I am free, I am duty bound to speak out, reach out, educate, and help.
No longer can we as a people sit comfortably and say it can never happen to me or my family, abuse creeps in unawares and ruins your life in the blink of an eye, the last thing I thought would have confronted me as a child was “identity theft” the stealing of my childhood and the abuse which I endured, no one knows when abuse will come knocking and enter a crease in the window no one knows and none of us are prepared for it when it comes.
In school we are taught how to prepare for a fire, how to prepare for examinations, we are taught how to prepare for a hurricane, earthquake, storm and even how to prepare for a family of our own. We are taught etiquette’s and manners, we are taught cleanliness and how to be tidy, we are instructed in many schools in reference to our spiritual life, however we are never taught how to prepare for abuse.
Organizations teach their employees and will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on proper customer service, but they are never taught and instructed as what to do when abuse is creeping through the cracks.
Books are written about the history of nations and men’s lives, books are written on crime, on getting rich and every other thing, but what about the victims of abuse would a noted author take his/her time to write about the atrocities which the victim had to endure, will they take their time to write about prevention and signs of abuse, for many the answer will be no, for this issue is not a popular one nor is it one for monetary rewards and profits.
The answer to all my questionings came to me while I was speaking to an individual about abuse and the answer is simple, it is VOICE EMPOWERMENT, empower individuals to use their voice, empower children to use their voice, empower families to use their voice, empower the nation to use its voice, empower those in authority and the government to use their voice, empower the media to use its voice, and empower the social network generation to use its voice.
Education is one of the main keys of life; if there is no education then only illiteracy and chaos will reign, no education you cannot make proper decisions and be informed and accountable. I have been championing this cause through education, educating individuals, organizations, and groups on the subject of abuse.
I will like to educate the nation, our Caribbean neighbours, and by extension the world on the subject, I will like to partner and network with individuals, advocates, organizations, and groups so we can work together in educating the population as no one person, group, or organization can do it alone.
With this purpose in mind It is off utmost importance as time is of the essence that we use the media, the internet, and social networks effectively to educate the public on the subject of abuse this social issue which is belting the globe and touching every nation and community with its evil blight, this harbinger of doom which have no mercy, shows no respect, have no regards for age, sex, ethnicity, religious persuasion, or financial position.
It stretches its hand into the halls of palaces and the homes of the peasant, it creeps in subtly into the dwellings of the educated and uneducated alike, and it runs through communities like a mighty torrent leaving many broken and damaged, even leaving some dead.
You ask for the history of this organization the history is my life, the history is the life of every child which has been and is currently being sexually abused and battered, the history is the victims of abuse in this nation and around the globe. The history is every person who is subjected to human trafficking and forced labour and is a victim of the sex trafficking trade, the history is every young man who has been and is being abused, the history is you and I and being the voice for the voiceless.
I can now stand tall and boldly declare that I am a survivor and each day which dawns I am embracing my survival with authority and love I now experience peace, joy, love, and knowing and loving me is a wonderful feeling, finding who I am and accepting the fact that the abuse was not my fault, being free of all those demons as I call them, which haunted me for years and now I have found my purpose which is to empower people to use their voice.
I do not know everything I will learn as I go and also share as I go, me not knowing everything will not stop me from sharing what I do know, I may not be perfect in all areas of my life but I am perfect in some and will continue to grow and be a voice for it is my duty because I am free.
Being silent is the greatest crime to humanity, it is because I am now free that I am duty bound to speak out, duty bound to help those affected by abuse and to educate persons on this issue.
I took time to research information and speak to various persons and step by step my healing came, remaining silent is not an option for me anymore breaking the silence is not a popular choice but it is the right choice.
And because of these things I was moved with great passion, compassion, purpose, and care to form this organization called O.A.B.I., to educate and inform persons about the seriousness of abuse, because this is what I was destined to do and that is to be a VOICE. What about you are you are VOICE are you empowered, are you making a difference? If the answer is no then it is never to late to begin for history never stops it continues but we can make a great difference in the way that our history is recorded.