Ending Sexual Assault

The war on women must end

Andrew Sage
13 min readDec 14, 2020


Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Over the past few years, thousands of women have gone missing or been killed in Trinidad & Tobago. This year, so far, 745 people have gone missing, and 416 have been women. Forty-six women have been killed, with 22 of them being domestic violence-related attacks. Roughly one-third of women in our country have faced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence over their lifetime, and nearly 1 in 5 women has faced sexual violence from non-partners in their lifetime (source). Words cannot describe my feelings at this moment. Not even the bowels of hell could contain my wrath right now.

Trinidad & Tobago, women deserve better.

Ashanti Riley deserved better.

Edit: As of February 2021, another woman has been found murdered.

Andrea Bharatt deserved better.

The Patriarchy: Then & Now

via Juggernaut

It’s no secret that the patriarchy — the social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property — remains a prevalent force in our society. Male domination does not need to be enshrined in the laws or constitution of a country for it to be patriarchal, and most contemporary societies remain patriarchal today. Patriarchy’s particular power is its capacity to make itself as invisible as possible; it tries very hard not to draw attention to the means of its endurance.

Although social stratification between women and men has been common across cultures, humans are incredibly adaptable creatures, able to exist along a wide spectrum of social arrangements. As such, believe it or not, male domination of women is not, nor does it have to be, the default.

Despite the common stereotype of the aggressive caveman and his submissive wife, anthropological, archaeological, and evolutionary psychological evidence suggest that most prehistoric societies were relatively egalitarian. In many early societies, human kinship was matricentric. The fundamental principles sustaining those societies were sharing and solidarity, principles which are sorely lacking in our modern patriarchal society.

via Low Technology Institute

Early human societies fostered wider-ranging social networks and closer cooperation between unrelated individuals, allowing people to share knowledge and technology freely. The shift to patriarchal domination silenced the voice of women, producing a single-voiced, male society. It was the fall of humane, ecologically-committed, emotionally intelligent society and the rise of enslavement, detachment from nature, dogmatism, and the exaltation of war.

Patriarchal social structures arose, in most places, after the development of agriculture, but Abdullah Öcalan goes in far more depth about its development in his short brochure, Liberating Life. He argues that it was the enslavement of women that paved the path for the enslavement of men.

“[Enslavement]’s legitimisation is attained through refined and intense repression combined with lies that play on emotions. Woman’s biological difference is used as justification for her enslavement. All the work she does is taken for granted and called unworthy ‘woman’s work’. Her presence in the public sphere is claimed to be prohibited by religion, morally shameful; progressively, she is secluded from all important social activities. As the dominant power of the political, social and economic activities are taken over by men, the weakness of women becomes even more institutionalised. Thus, the idea of a ‘weak sex’ becomes a shared belief.”

When inequalities arise in a society, there tends to be a dominant mythos to accompany and justify that inequality. Under capitalism, the inherently unequal economic system that dominates the world, the existence of poverty is blamed on the “laziness” of the poor. Under feudalism, the rule of the monarchy was justified by divine right. Under patriarchy, the domination of women is justified through misogyny.


via Rosie

Misogyny is the central basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Despite the dictionary definition, you don’t have to hate women to be a misogynist. As the dominant ideology, held consciously and unconsciously by society as a whole, it can be practised by men and women, serving to reinforce and justify women’s position of inferiority.

In our schools, girls are regulated and restricted to an almost carceral degree. Religious institutions fixate on controlling the boundaries of womanhood. “Feminine” jobs are undervalued and women are expected to balance both wage labour and the domestic and emotional labour that maintains their households and by extension society as a whole. Girls are groomed from an early age to accept the very same role, as “a good wife and mother.”

Women are reduced to mere objects; property to be scrutinized, categorized, and strictly controlled for their appearance, actions, attitudes, choices, and behaviours. Women who refuse to accept the arbitrary standards forced on them are subject to a litany of insults and remarks. Or worse.

Misogyny extends to the practice of punishing and controlling women with violence.

Rape Culture

via Wikimedia Commons

Rape culture refers to a setting in which rape is normalized and pervasive. In a nation where misogyny is common, manifesting through jokes, catcalling, victim-blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, denial of misogyny, and ignorance, rape is prevalent.

We need to overcome patriarchy and put an end to the idea that men and women are too fundamentally different to be equal. Trinidad & Tobago, we need feminism.

Feminism Is For Everybody

Feminism can be best described as an umbrella term for a variety of ideologies that aim to establish political, economic, personal, and social equality in the gender sphere. It isn’t some convoluted attack on men. Rather, as feminist author bell hooks writes:

“Dismantling and changing patriarchal culture is work that men and women must do together.”

Of course, men are harmed deeply by patriarchal structures too. After all, patriarchy insists that men are inherently dominating, endowed with the right to dominate, rule over the weak, and maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence. Patriarchy upholds the worst in us and damages our ability to maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships with all people. However, that is a subject for another time.

If we want to address the pervasive and life-threatening spectre of gendered violence, we need to move beyond mere “tips and tricks” for women to protect themselves. To put an end to rampant sexual assault and dismantle patriarchy in Trinidad & Tobago, everyone, male and female alike, must unite to confront misogyny in every facet of society.

Check Your Household

via Parents.com

Research shows that children begin absorbing stereotypes by age three. The examples set at home by parents, caregivers, and extended family shape the way the next generation thinks about gender and equality.

Combat patriarchal indoctrination, covert and overt. Though never outright stated, boys are raised to believe that at some point, violence is required of them, whether psychological or physical, to prove their manhood. Allow boys to express their feelings beyond the narrow confines of masculinity.

Distribute domestic labour in your home equally; everyone should take part in cooking, cleaning, and childrearing. Reject body shaming in your household. Challenge limiting gender roles and expectations from a young age. Let the children in your life know that they can safely express themselves as they are, without having to bend to the confines of society.

Lastly, make sure the young people in your life understand the importance of boundaries and consent, and respect their boundaries too. I’ve seen too many instances of utter disregard for children’s feelings or personal space. Don’t let family members get away with inflicting violence on them (sexual or otherwise) in the name of protecting their reputation. Listen to your kids.

Check Your School

Our schools, often segregated by gender, reinforce archaic gender roles, prevent the free exchange and intermingling of ideas, and limit the freedom of students to explore their capabilities due to their schools lacking the availability of certain subjects. I plan on addressing the issues with our local school system in more depth in a future article, but for now, schools have a lot of work to do to combat sexism.

Photo by Anton Sukhinov on Unsplash

Some of the most flagrant displays of raw misogyny can be found in the classroom or schoolyard. Sexist language is commonplace, sexual humiliation via social media is rampant, and sexist stereotyping and behaviour is practically mundane. Schools often drill and reinforce sexist ideas in the minds of students, from the notion that certain ways of dressing are deserving of disrespect to the often underreported and unaddressed sexual harassment.

All-female secondary schools are bastions of internalized misogyny that need to let go of the culture of control that is so ingrained in their operation. The constant behaviour policing, from purity culture to uniform checks to public shaming, needs to end. All-male secondary schools do very little to instil and emphasize the importance of boundaries and consent, so misogyny festers. The sharing of nudes, for example, needs to be seriously addressed, as it develops a mindset of violation and objectification. Students and faculty need to take an active role in challenging the harmful attitudes that are normalized to the point of invisibility. In mixed secondary schools, more needs to be done to address the prevalence of sexual harassment. The double standards cannot be ignored either.

Young people spend most of their waking hours in school. As early as preschool and primary school, these institutions need to commit to seriously tackling sexism, among their employees and among their students.

Check Your Workplace

In the workplace, women are often faced with death by a thousand cuts. Certain traits that are praised in men, like assertiveness and outspokenness, are often demonized in women, which impairs their ability to thrive. Women have to deal with frequent interruptions and challenges to their expertise.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but you should make a conscious effort to listen to, speak to, and treat women in your workplace with respect and decency.

Check Your Bredren

Sexual assault can be perpetrated by anybody: friend, foe, family, or stranger. Look out for sexist attitudes and behaviours among your friends and call it out. On the street or on the road, cut the catcalling. Don’t let limes with friends get ugly with sexist conversation. In the barbershop or at the bar, lend your voice in challenging the misogynistic ideas that reinforce our culture of gendered violence.

We all have a part to play in the fight for the safety and wellbeing of women in our country. It starts with you.

Check Yourself

Take some time to reflect on how your beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours have been shaped by the patriarchal society you were raised in. All people, women included, should undergo this process of self-transformation, though internalized sexism is a whole can of worms I don’t feel equipped to address. As Gloria Steinem notes:

“You could not subordinate half the human race unless some of that was internalized.”

It takes a certain measure of maturity to earnestly evaluate yourself. From how you perceive women’s worth to how you treat the different women in your life. Overcome the perception of women as either wives, sisters, mothers, or lovers. Understand them as people.

Work to challenge such damaging ideas and actions through education, conversation, and advocacy. Learn to listen.

Beyond Individuals

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

The oppression of women is complex and multilayered, as it is operated, upheld, and reproduced by all facets of society. It extends beyond mere individual acts, so we can’t look solely at individuals in our fight against it. The system of patriarchy is perhaps the oldest continuous institution. It reinforces and is reinforced by the church, by capitalism, and by the media, systems we must collectively address.

The Church

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Women, once exalted to the point of goddesshood, were quickly relegated to the “God-ordained” position of servant with the rise of the world’s dominant monotheistic religions. Today, churches maintain and propagate the archaic ideas that have justified women’s domination for millennia.

Religious leaders assume and theologize about the inferiority of women, reducing them to objects in a culture that insists on “purity”. Instead of seeing patriarchy as the threat to freedom that it is, patriarchy is venerated as a God-given directive for human society. However, such an unquestioning commitment to patriarchy creates the context for the frequent abuse and traumatization of women and girls, in and out of the church. A context where a woman’s worth is up for debate and scripture is weaponized to define women’s place and value.

“Time for men to stop playing God.”

Progress made in the sphere of women’s liberation has been made in spite of the grip of religion, and religion is usually left catching up. Time for men to stop playing God and time for churches to stop using forgiveness, grace, and mercy to abdicate men from accountability for their actions.


via BanknoteNews

Capitalism plays a major role in reinforcing the patriarchy, globally. Although it favours some emancipation for the sake of profit, the oppression of women is useful to the system. Capitalism needs the woman’s role in the patriarchal family institution to thrive.

Women who perform wage labour tend to be underpaid relative to men. Their exploitation is justified with the argument that they are “less productive” than men, citing weakness, menstruation, absenteeism for pregnancy and maternity leave, breastfeeding, and child and senior care. This ignores the fact that women perform the vast majority of free labour.

Without women maintaining their role as providers of free domestic labour, work hours would need to be reduced, wages would need to be increased, and social services would need to be expanded to account for the massive scope of socially necessary yet unappreciated labour that women contribute. Without the domination of women, combined with the domination of the working class and of nature, the system would simply collapse.

The Media

Photo by Pinho . on Unsplash

The media is complicit the violence perpetrated against women in our society. Our advertisements, digital, print, outdoor, and otherwise, are dominated by the male gaze.

The term “male gaze” describes the sexualized view that positions women as objects of male desire, whose feelings and thoughts are utterly irrelevant.

We need to challenge the male gaze in the media we accept and consume.

As for news media, reports on violence against women needs to be reframed if we intend to reduce and ultimately eliminate levels of violence. Media reporting has the power to shift social and cultural norms, by either reinforcing or challenging the sources of violence against women in our society.

Reports should situate instances of gendered violence within the broader context of patriarchy. Journalists need to include information and resources for women to seek help and media houses need to elevate the voices of survivors, advocates, and experts, instead of unduly emphasizing the perspectives of law enforcement and politicians.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of women in Trinidad & Tobago are utterly exhausted, living in fear and hunted like prey. Once the creative goddess of Neolithic society, women now find themselves in a place of inferiority. Sexual violence is far more complex than the individual act, in isolation. If we want to eliminate violence and establish equality, we need to look at the problem in its totality.

Without a complete analysis, our solutions will remain insufficient. We’ll be left with more women in places of leadership, more abuse centres that function as a mere reaction to an unending barrage of violence, more marches and slogans, yet no real change.

Our solution must involve:

  • Exposing misogynists, rapists, and societies facilitation of both, creating an environment that is hostile to misogyny, not men and women.
  • Providing accessible hotlines, support networks, and mental health centres, that can put the shared, living process of proactively healing our sick society into practice.
  • Providing safe housing, freely. No one should be forced to remain in an unsafe environment because they lack access to basic needs and support otherwise.
  • Building political organizations, from the bottom up, that can educate and empower all people to collaborate and move towards an island founded on equality and consensus, not domination and violence.

I’m not going to say “protect our women”. The phrase has practically lost all meaning. It’s repeated by people who themselves inflict violence and its phrasing, implying that these women are our property, also indirectly facilitates violence. No, the onus of protection is not solely on men.

Protecting women requires a fundamental transformation of our culture. A journey we must embark on together. Look out for each other; we have a long road ahead. I look forward to the day when women can live safely.

We cannot be free unless women are free.

Photo by Autumn Goodman on Unsplash

Recommended Reading

Subscribe to my newsletter for more ideas, straight to your inbox. You can follow Saint Andrew on Twitter @_saintdrew and subscribe on Youtube where I discuss even more politics and philosophy. You can also donate on Patreon.

← Previous Blog Post:



Andrew Sage

I’m a writer of words, an artist of arts, and a thinker of thoughts. Founder of Saint Who and Andrewism. Follow me on Twitter @_saintdrew.