Scarred - Domestic abuse victim trying to rebuild life after traumatic, bloody ordeal
Twenty-four-year-old Shamarie Williams does not know if she will be able to foster an intimate relationship with a man again.
Not after Mark Riley, the father of her six-year-old son, attacked her with a machete while she slept before setting their Pleasant Valley home in Clarendon ablaze last year.
The incident has left her disfigured and has shattered her self-confidence. Gone, too, are her interest in men and their interest in her after the ill-fated night of June 30 last year.
For now, her focus is on securing meaningful employment so she can gather the pieces of her broken life – and even that has proven difficult as employers are turned off by her scars.
Caught in a fit of rage, Riley, who had been Williams’ lover for six years, stormed into the house they shared and chopped her repeatedly in the head, neck, arms and pubic area.
The heinous act reportedly occurred after Riley’s friends from the community jeered him openly, saying Williams was too pretty for him and that their son was not his biological child.
Believing his blood-soaked partner was dead, Riley then locked himself, with her, inside the house he had built and started the fire. Luckily, their son was with his grandmother and escaped the doomed home that night, Williams explained.
Riley died in the blaze, but Williams miraculously awoke in critical condition at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) a day later. To this day she claims she has no memory of how she managed to find help.
“I came home from work and went to sleep and the only thing I know is that I wake up at KPH the other day,” Williams told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.
“It is when my neighbour came to visit me at the hospital that she told me that I was the one who came to her door knocking and asking for help,” said Williams. “She saw the state that I was in and brought me to the hospital.
“I can’t remember none of it. I just know I woke up on life-support machine with my head bandaged up and tubes in my throat and in my mouth,” she said, adding that doctors performed six surgeries in a month so she could be able to eat and breathe.
HAUNTING FACIAL SCARS
Seven months after the incident, she now hauls around haunting facial scars that are growing more menacing as the keloid tissues stretch across her jaws.
She wears a metal brace inside her head which holds her jaws in place so she can speak. But they cause pain whenever the weather gets cold, Williams said, hoping she will one day save enough to try plastic surgery. For now, however, she looks at herself in the mirror less.
“Sometimes I don’t really like talking about it. Everywhere I go people see me and ask question, and the first question is ‘somebody cut you across your face’?” she said. “It is not like it is an accident or anything; it just looks obvious that is domestic violence.”
She added: “Some people say negative things … some of them say ‘why yuh never lef’ him before, yuh never see seh a madman?’ But I never know that him mad. How me fi know seh him mad?” she argued, noting that he was aggressive but never before been violent towards her.
And even if he was, Williams said she had nowhere else to go as Riley was her only source of support at the time.
At least four women have been killed at the hands of lovers or ex-lovers in Jamaica since New Year’s Eve. Among them are 24-year-old Shantell White, who was murdered by her ex in Mandeville; and Suzanne Easy, who was chopped and shot by Jamaica Defence Force Corporal Doran McKenzie, who later killed himself in Portmore, St Catherine.
Each of these incidents has brought Williams a chilling reminder of how lucky she is to be alive today. What she needs now, she said, is for employers to see past her scars so she can one day replace the furniture she lost in the fire last year.
“Some persons won’t hire you because the scars tell a bad story about me, especially in the food industry … in restaurants and so on. Some people just don’t like to see or stomach certain things,” she explained.
The spate of killings has caused public uproar, prompting an announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last week that the Government is tabling a domestic violence bill to buttress existing domestic abuse laws.
It has also placed a spotlight on a string of police initiatives, such as the Domestic Violence Intervention centres, located in Constant Spring and Matilda’s Corner, and rekindles debate about a proposed 24-hour ‘cooling-off’ period within which angry spouses can be detained by cops following domestic disputes.
“We have had for too long a permissive society that allows a man to trespass upon the person of a woman without any form of rebuke, without the society saying it is wrong,” said Holness as he addressed supporters at a Jamaica Labour Party Council Meeting at the Portmore HEART Academy last Sunday.
- The police continue to ask victims to contact the Constant Spring centre at 876-702-5120 and 876-702-5121, or the Matilda’s Corner Police at 876-978-6003.
- Persons who would like to assist Shamarie Williams may call 876-213-7033.