Tanya Stephens lashes Jamaican rape culture

Jamaican artist Tanya Stephens is no stranger to denouncing rape. The musician, who previously shared her own experience of being raped twice, says the rape culture in Jamaica will persist if heckling and the objectification of women continue.

Her sentiments were aired in an online video on the heels of the discovery of the dead body of 20-year-old Khanice Jackson. The killing has altered social media timelines, with many users sharing a poster denouncing violence against women. Stephens is not impressed. 

“Yuh see when me see all the ‘stop the violence’ something dem a go up, forgive me but mi look pon it like ‘f**k unno’ because the only reason why unno a dweet a because unno peace disrupted by blaring imagery,” she said. “Mi seh f**k unno because the victim dem a talk long time and unno nay did a bloodcl**t listen. Mi seh f**k unno cause unno don’t really care, because unno nuh actually waan do nothing.”

She added, “I am in a position fi enlighten you, not because mi smarter than you, because mi get rape. Mi nuh waan be inna di position fi be able fi enlighten you but mi know wah rape feel like. Mi know weh it feel like physically to me which doesn’t speak for any other survivor. Mi know weh it feel like psychologically to me which doesn’t speak for any other survivor. Mi know weh it feel like emotionally to me which doesn’t speak for any other survivor. But it put me inna one position fi empathise more closely because mi deh within the neighbourhood of feelings, of emotions, of psychology…”

Stephens said she was first raped at age 17 by someone in the music industry. Two years later, she was gang-raped at the hands of her boyfriend whom she said knew that she had been sexually violated before.

“Him claim seh a nuh him set it up. A him carry mi go deh and it normal fi yuh go out with your boyfriend… Mi nuh do nothing abnormal. Mi nuh do nothing weh cause it. Mi nuh do nothing weh deserve it…”

She said she got through the traumatic ordeal with the support of friends. She also shared that she found therapy in the luxuries of fame. 

“Mi compartmentalise and mi dash it one side and then mi start mek money and the money became my therapy, the money became my fix,” she said. “Mi just throw myself inna mi work…fling mi self in deh and seh ‘Dem boy deh a go b***dcl**t see me’ cause dem never big so and nobody dem know nuh big so. Mi a go bigger than everything round dem and dem ‘gon haffi see me cause mi a stand up pon the highest b****ocl**t pedestal and mi use it as gas and mi use it as propulsion.”

Despite her survival, she still faces heckling men like many other women. She said she was recently harassed by a police officer who scoffed at her discomfort.

“Mi have on jeans, one T-shirt and mi have on blazer and mi start fi walk outta Boswell Store yard a Port Maria and realise seh mi have on the blazer and the sun a beat,” she explained. “Mi tun back to mi car and start fi tek off mi blazer and three police a pass outta road and one a dem seh ‘Yeah, take it off’ and God know mi creeped out. Mi feel mi skin crawl so mi tun round back, lock the car and put on back the blazer and him seh, ‘Awww, why yuh put it back on? Take it off man, take it off,’ and mi seh, ‘Stop doing that, stop. You’re making me uncomfortable’. That resulted in a back and forth between me and him.”

She ended up at the police station and spoke about the incident to another officer, whom she said chalked it up as his colleague playing. Stephens became angry at the excuses and started using expletives at which point she said the officer said he could no longer “entertain” her.

“This a why we can’t stop rape a Jamaica because him never feel no way perturbed by him coworker behaviour but him feel a way bout me cussing one bad word.”

She commended her peer Popcaan for suggesting a course of action against rapists and paedophiles in his latest release  Jungle Justice Pt 2.

However, she admitted that she struggles with the thought of taking life.

“Pon the one hand, mi waan achieve mastery of this life which me feel does not include tek the life of another human but on the other hand, inna mi practical life, mi see which part certain humans put a damper on the progress of the culture and some may also feel like they should be put out of dem misery. So dah conflict deh mi nuh figure a way round it yet.”