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Wednesday 19 December 2018
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Asha Samaroo: Breaking the Silence

Asha Samaroo
Asha Samaroo

VALDEEN SHEARS

She stood watching the cross at the church, pondering whether to go back for the bottle of insecticide she had drank from months before, or to take a step towards the church doors.

She remembered her children's smiles and shook off the looming shroud of hopelessness, which had followed her since age six, placed one foot in front each other, walked into the church and cried out to God.

Asha Samaroo believes there really should never be any shame in telling one's story, no matter how horrific, traumatising or revealing, if it will help just one person who is still trying to overcome their own crisis.

She remains adamant that she was sexually molested from age six at the hands of two male relatives. She said the abuse went on for years and at age 16 she told a teacher, who in turn confronted her mother during a parent/teacher day.

Samaroo claimed she was beaten, accused of lying and her school clothes burnt.

She said, she was also taken out of school.

She ran away to her grandmother's home and at the age of 18 was "married off" to a man twice her age.

"I felt I didn't have any say in going with him. It was like jumping out the frying pan into the fire. And then the licks started and babies came," she told WMN.

Eventually, after five years, Samaroo said she fled her marital home and ended up on the streets.

She recalled being homeless, with two infant children and sleeping on the streets. Then a Good Samaritan helped her and she was taken to a businessman, who owned a home and stayed there until she was able to secure a job with another female friend.

Friends and supporters of the Asha Samaroo Foundation at a family day held in 2017.

However, her estranged husband refused to "leave her in peace" and would stalk her until eventually, her landlord said she had to vacate his premises. She took out a restraining order, which she said he breached several times, but he would always leave before the police arrived.

Eventually, he was arrested for breaching the order, when he was found inside her home and was subsequently convicted for the offence.

However, Samaroo's lowest point came as she tried to cope with caring for two infants, without a complete education, very little resources and no tangible support.

She said this was the lure of the poison, the possibility of escaping from the feeling of hopelessness. But God, she said, had other plans for her life.

It took the pumping of her stomach and three months of recuperation at hospital for Samaroo to realise that she had to find hope in her children and faith.

"I am so glad I didn't look back. For me it was no joke, no mere statement, looking back could literally have meant death," said a now self-assured and confident Asha Samaroo.

Her story is one of sexual abuse, domestic violence, parental neglect and despair, but also of faith, hope, perseverance and prosperity.

"I couldn't understand why my mom allowed those men to do to me the things they did. I still want that answer. I don't hate my mom. In fact, I know she had a hard life. I just wanted to know why?" she queried shrugging her shoulder.

It's a question that has reaped controversy and even death threats unto Samaroo's head, but those she said, after 42 years, she was prepared to face.

For the mother of four, it is no longer about staying in shame-filled silence, but speaking out so that others can be inspired and strengthened too.

While she has yet to get the answers she has sought from her mother, Samaroo decided enough was enough, she would no longer be shamed into silence.

Miss India Trinidad and Tobago shows her support for Asha Samaroo and her foundation at a family day held in 2017.

Now a US resident, Samaroo, said she just couldn't hold it in anymore, discussed it with her husband of 19 years and her children and shared her story live on social media site, Facebook on July 28, 2017.

What came out of that is an NGO that is bent on breaking the silence on child sexual abuse, abuse, teenage pregnancy and other adversities vulnerable children face daily.

Samaroo has no regrets. She was ridiculed, verbal attacks were aimed at her children and a mug shot of her was posted on social media, but she refused to back down.

She said, "Girl, I have to laugh when I remember that one. My daughter and I fell out, we exchanged words, it blew out of proportion a bit and the police was called in. We did go to court and it was dismissed in the interest of justice, because the court realised it was a difference of opinion between mother and daughter.

“They saw it fit to put up my mug shot as if I was a criminal, all to see if they could shame me back into silence," said Samaroo.

She did take her gloves off though when a stalker on social media made threats towards her children. Samaroo said she did what she had to as a mother and that person was banned from that particular site.

She says, with no apology, she will never allow anyone to hurt, attack or ridicule her children and turn a blind eye.

Samaroo's ideal is certainly not one she learnt from example, as she openly spoke of the sexual abuse she claims she suffered at the hands of her two adult male relatives.

She did confront one of them and he stormed off, left her home and refuses to engage in any further conversation on the matter. Samaroo, added that she has been the brunt of ridicule from other family members, who think she should have stayed quite.

However, she said one female relative blurted out to her, "oh I thought it was me alone, it happened to me too".

Samaroo said child rape and incest are issues that continue to remain taboo, when in fact they should be spoken of openly so that children will no longer remain afraid to speak out about being abused.

Her eponymous foundation, she said, aims to offer hope to the often hopeless.

With this in mind Samaroo has partnered with like-minded individuals including female police officers, counsellors, attorneys, consultants, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, both here and abroad, who are willing to volunteer their services when needed.

"We have a group of female officers here who are on call, but who can’t be named, ready and willing to render assistance to get children, women, victims to safety when and if necessary. We have attorney ready to take on cases when and if ready," she noted.

Samaroo, would be the first to tell you she is a work still in progress and only recently started her own blog, where she speaks out on the ills of society often faced by children, especially girls.

She has also formed a relationship with a book and cafe establishment in Point Fortin, with the intent to act as a safe haven for women to sit and speak out about their situations.

That space, she added, will lead to referrals for counselling, assistance and mediation where and when necessary.

"I am getting there. I have learnt to be less harsh, a little less passionate, but still get my point across. I am working on acting and reacting a lot more professional and I am a work in progress, but it is coming," she admitted.

To her detractors, Samaroo, said even now she thinks of derogatory remarks, condemnations and bold face lies against her, as more fuel for her to continue on her drive to help others break the silence on rape, abuse, domestic violence, incest and molestation against those who cannot speak for themselves.

 

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