I grew up in the Pentecostal Church where we made a joyful noise (read: screamed tongues, beat drums, fingered guitars & banged tambourines). But that’s not why I showed up on March 11 to march with the Tambourine Army. I didn’t show up to play church, to be a part of some 9 Days Wonder, Social Media Hype or to wallow in the pain of my past or that of my friends’. I showed up because I know what it feels like to be sexually taken advantage of, to want to be heard, healed, understood, supported and defended.
30 years ago, I remember telling my helper that my next door neighbour had sexually molested me. I probably didn’t use those exact words since I was only 6 at the time but I remember her response… that it was normal and that she too was molested. I think she even made an excuse for him by alluding to the fact that his wife had migrated. It was not until I was older that I understood that she was suggesting that he must have been sexually deprived and horny due to the prolonged absence of his wife. I guess that somehow legitimized him seeking sexual pleasure from a 6 year old.
In that moment, I felt my tears meant nothing as they were brushed aside almost as if that experience was some kind of rite of passage that all girls had to go through. She assured me, “It’s normal. You’ll be ok. Every woman I know has experienced the same thing.”
Somehow, it still didn’t feel right. But if the one adult I had the guts to tell said there was nothing I could do about it then all that was left for my 6 years old embarrassed self to do was to cave in the silence and secrecy that my molester had vowed me to. For years, I did just that. I stayed silent. I blamed myself. My self-esteem was low. And I felt alone.
Many years later, a friend told me that she was raped (more than once) and one of the persons that raped her was her brother. My story paled in comparison and I began to view what happened to me as relatively insignificant. I thought I was being “ungrateful” and that I had no right to feel hurt or be heard. I wanted to ease her pain instead of mine.
As I grew older, more persons confided. This other friend said she was molested at the alter in church and years later she was also raped by a taxi man while on her way to school. Then there was the friend who was molested nightly by her father until she retaliated and was forced to move out of the house by her mom. Every time I heard these stories, my heart ached. There was something brewing in me and I felt these stories needed to be heard and something needed to be done.
Fast forward to recently when the #lifeinleggings movement and hashtag on social media got viral, then news of multiple murders of women and children and multiple allegations of rape by pastors in Jamaica became rampant. Those publicly shared experiences of victimization, violence, assault, rape and molestation, in addition to the surge in reported cases of violence against women and children on the news, seemed to rehash wounds, connect survivors in solidarity, inspire militancy and gave birth to what we now know as the Tambourine Army.
Origins of Tambourine Army
“Early one Sunday in January, a group of women arrived at a church in the rolling, green hills of rural Jamaica. They were not there to worship, but to show support for a young victim of sexual abuse: a 15-year-old girl, who had allegedly been raped by the church’s pastor a few weeks earlier.
The 14 activists entered the church and sat in silence, but angry words broke out when they were approached by a different pastor; the confrontation culminated with him being struck in the head by a tambourine.
The incident marked the beginnings of the Tambourine Army, a new organization to fight gender-based violence in Jamaica…”
I had wanted to focus on this same issue for years and I attempted with my Silence is Violence Campaign where I publicly shared my story through my blog after being nudged by the Bill Cosby rape allegations and then the Trump ‘grab the pussy’ incident. It was my intention to raise funds to support organization(s) working to end rape and child molestation and offering support to victims. I wanted victims, witnesses and supporters of the cause to speak out, break the silence and stand in solidarity. I wanted us to stop blaming and shaming victims and put the blame exactly where it belongs: At the feet of the perpetrators and the culture and system that fuel, normalize and support these behaviours.
I was therefore overjoyed when I heard about the Tambourine Army and read about its purpose, mission, objectives, agenda and plans. I believed that it would be more impactful if I used my energy and resources to support the Tambourine Army rather than try to start something of my own.
Sure, I understand the perspectives of those who won’t support the Tambourine Army because of its origins of Latoya Nugent (Stella) using the Tambourine to, as I put it, try to knock the lies and perversions out of the head of that Pastor. They argue the movement was founded on violence/assault and therefore goes against the very thing it fights for.
“By what standard of morality can the violence used by a slave to break his chains be considered the same as the violence used by the slave master.” -Walter Rodney
How can I use that incident to demonize the Tambourine Army if I, having been in the same situation, could have reacted similarly?
Had I visited that Moravian Church with my Tambourine that Sunday and saw my molester and having confronted him and he denied it, I too would have banged him in his head with my Tambourine… or my Bible… or my cellphone… or my fist. The point is, I could have easily been Stella.
To be clear though, the movement’s purpose is not to go around assaulting
pastors sexual predators with tambourines. This movement is also not about Stella, (or her sexual orientation). By making it about her, you are diverting the focus, creating a distraction, and helping to dilute it’s effectiveness. The mandate is bigger and more pressing. We are in a crisis. Our women and children are being violated daily. These criminals are deadly! They are physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically assaulting, killing and raping our women and children. Drastic measures are necessary. We are the ones being crucified – ‘nailed’ and ‘hammered’ – yet we are waiting on a saviour that will not come. We, as women, must therefore take matters in our own hands because that’s where our salvation lies.
“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, have gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur
Survivor & Victor,
You too can support the Tambourine Army:
Events and Initiatives:
Other Perspectives on The Tambourine Army:
To see more of what people are saying on social media, use hashtags #TambourineArmy #NahMekDemWin #SayTheirNames #TambourineArmyRising
Follow me on Instagram: @staciadavidson