British envoy Jane Marriott reveals how she survived sexual assault

British envoy Jane Marriott reveals how she survived sexual assault

British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott has revealed her own sexual assault experience that occurred 17 years ago.

As the 16 Days of Activism Against Sexual Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) kicked off on November 25, the envoy lent her story to the campaign with the candid revelation.

She spoke to Citizen TV’s Victoria Rubadiri and below are some excerpts from the interview:

Q. The coronavirus pandemic has hit and cases have escalated around the world and we are hearing more and more cases of survivors. Take us through your story and why you felt the need to share now considering the place that you sit. It’s a place of influence and power. 

A. That’s exactly it, because I am in a position of influence and power now, if people like me do not speak about our experiences and frankly reduce some of the stigma behind it then I am not using my power for good and for me that is what power is there for. It is to be used for the good of the people, to make connections and enhance people’s lives because we are all on this planet together, COVID has shown us that, nobody is an island. So I am using this position to show that it happened to me.

I was 27 at the time and I was sexually assaulted in Iraq. I was among the first foreign civilians in there after the military action in 2003 and it was a story I carried inside me for a very long time. I didn’t speak about it and I felt some of that stigma and shame even though it was absolutely not my fault whatsoever. So that’s why I want to speak out now to encourage women to realize that is it not their fault when they are attacked even if it’s somebody who they think should be a loved one. I want to try and make some of those connections and networks between survivors of assault.

Q. You are testament that it can happen to anyone. Could you paint a picture and give us context in terms of could this be deemed assault…you know..many times for someone who has gone through it, your mind can play tricks on you and find ways of trying to justify…but there is need to call it for what it is.

A. In some ways mine was quite a clear cut experience because the person who attacked me was a complete stranger. I think it is much more complicated when it might someone who is a husband or possibly a wife…there are attacks on men as well. When it’s a loved one the lines are much more blurred and it’s a much more betrayal of trust than in my case and in what happened to me in Iraq.

I was in my room late at night and this man unlocked the door. I did not know that anyone other than me had a key to my little wooden shack at the military base. He came in and had taken some of my underwear and washed it and expected me to be grateful that he had washed it. I had been wondering where my underwear had been disappearing to. He expected me to be grateful but I was like: “Who are you? What are you doing? Please leave!”

He pushed me against the wall, put both his hands against my chest and it’s interesting that you mention about recollection because I don’t recall what happened next. I do recall that somehow I managed to persuade him to leave before it went any further. I was petrified of being raped. I wasn’t raped but I could have been. I managed to persuade him to leave, put lots of furniture against the door so he couldn’t get back in, goodness knows where he got the key. I mentioned it the next day to a friend.

Q. After a moment like that many survivors are sentenced to silence and never tell a soul. In the instance where you decided to tell a friend, what necessitated that and did you feel this could probably erupt into something bigger if you did, what were the things you were considering?

A. I mentioned it to a male military friend actually because Iraq is male dominated. He was very sympathetic and said: “I have to tell the General. This isn’t acceptable!” but I was like: “No…no…I don’t want to create any fuss.” I do want to gender stereotype…as men and women I think we are all great but there is something in the way women are brought up…society expects us not to make a fuss. And even there (in Iraq) this horrific thing had just happened to me but my instinct was I don’t want to make a fuss. That’s just wrong! Why was I thinking that?

But this friend persuaded me to tell the General and a support network, all male, kicked in and made sure that I was fine and found out the guy who had done the attack and had a word with him. I had a word with him to discourage him from from doing anything like that again. For me, one of the differences that enables me to tell my story is that I was believed and I was supported.

I think that is easier for society in circumstances like mine to do that where the guy was a stranger and was very obviously wrong that where it is emotionally more challenging like where that person is a loved one, a family member. It is interesting that women will put up with so much for themselves and it’s largely when say the husband attacks the children that they tend to react, protect somebody else.

They are not empowered to speak up about their own experiences. We know the statistics; if a girl suffers assault, particularly sexual assault she is much more likely to drop out of school which means it impacts her potential earnings and her contribution. She is one and a half more times likely to get HIV. She’s much more likely to die in child birth. This affects all of us, not just the individual.

You can watch the rest of the interview on the link below: