Youth Support Library

The Voice of Youth

The Voice of Youth has Developed into a whole new division of Youth Support Charity. This exciting development is led by Omar Richards. You may wish to read about the early contributions of our young people below or go directly to our new section The Voice of Youth.

Peer counselling and Story Telling

The Women’s Centres of Jamaica Foundation have for several years organised a peer counselling course for secondary school pupils. 

Youth Support Jamaica has been cooperating with the centre in Kingston over this venture and I have been privileged to teach on the course for the past few years.  We have developed course booklets on subjects such as personal development, relationships, teen suicide and self harm, family work, abuse and other emotional problems. The sessions have included role play exercises and story telling – here are some examples of the young people’s stories.  

 A Sad Tale (Group D) 

Sharon a 16 year old girl and her mother who lived in a village far away from the rest of the family who lived in town. Her mother could not afford to send her to school and to buy food to put on her table. So she sent her daughter Sharon to sell herself in order for them to survive. If she had refused to go her mother would have beaten her and bruised her skin. Then a few months later she got pregnant and end up with AIDS. After having the baby she died the next year. 

This was truly a sad tale and a good example of how young people pick up negative and frightening images from media and health professionals and can build up a picture of hopelessness in their minds rather than being able to use information to provoke change.  

The importance of this story was in getting the group to suggest alternative scenarios and outcomes and ways in which s similar sad ending could be avoided in future.  

Suicide  Group H 

Monique was a sixteen year old girl who’s mother did not trust her in that she was not allowed to go out. One day her mother allowed her to go to an event that was taking place at the National Stadium. She went with her sister ad while they were there Monique lost her sister in the crowd. She then found other friends of hers and started to walk with them. After the event was over her sister went home without her. In that she arrived home very late, her mother was very angry with her and told her things she did not like and it made her upset. She was so upset that she felt like killing herself. The next morning she went to a friends and told her that she was going to kill herself. Her friend did not take her seriously so she didn’t say anything about it to anyone. That same afternoon Monique went home, got a piece of rope, went to the back of their house , tied the rope to a tree and hang herself. When her mother got home she started looking for Monique but she was no where to be found. She was so worried she never thought of checking the back because it was not a normal place for Monique to be. Later in the evening when her sister got home she went round the back to fetch something , when she saw Monique body hanging from the tree. She started screaming. Her mother rush to her assistance and saw what was happening she was so shocked she fainted. 

A clear example of a young woman who was not listened to. Our discussions centred on suicide and self harming as a failed communication.  Ways of being heard and of listening to others pain and hurt were suggested. Despite the enormity of the problems described in the young people’s  stories – it is also important to recognise the less dramatic but equally painful examples of not being heard and being ignored by loved ones which may have provoked the story tellers to relate their stories. 

Abuse - Group A 

Molly was a thirteen year old girl who matured early. She live in a single parent family which included her and her father. She liked wearing very skimpy clothes. This tempted her father for sex and led him to sexually abuse her. 

Further on in her life it became a habit for her father to have sex with her. This made her become anorexic and she started acting weird around her friends. They noticed she would often vomit and sleep in class. A concerned friend , me, went to her and asked her what was happening to her. Molly began to cry and asked me kindly to leave her alone. I did as Molly asked. A day later Molly came to me and told me all about what her father had done. Hearing this made me feel sympathy for her. I felt curious because I wanted to know why her father did this and also why she made (allowed) this happen for such a long time. 

I told her that the issue was too complicated and asked her if she would mind me taking her to the guidance counsellor. She agreed that this was the best thing to do. We went to the guidance counsellor who listened to Molly intensively and gave her all the advice she needed. The counsellor also told her that she could have prevented it by wear more modest clothing because she is only female in the home with her father. Therefore when he sees her being so beautiful it makes him want to have sex. 

If my friend Molly did not get help I think in the future it would affect her both mentally and physically. 

This story led to an outcry from other class members who were outraged that Molly should be accused of tempting her father by wearing sexy clothes. She should be able to wear what she liked being expressed by most of the class while some held to the point of moderating her appearance. Boundary issues came to the fore.  Should father see her as attractive and beautiful – and if so should this incite sexual feelings towards his daughter? The general consensus was that he should see her as a beautiful daughter and not as a sex object.  

Sexual boundaries are difficult concepts to discuss and understand in class but linking the discussion to a story coming directly from the young people’s experience brings the subject to life and they were able to relate to the issues in a meaningful way. 

A Suicide   Group E 

Tina, a fifteen year old girl of Gladstone gardens received the shock of her life when her Mom kicked her out of the house after she found out she was pregnant. She told her Mom that se had got raped but her Mom didn’t believe as Tina liked to flirt with Guys. Upon leaving her Mom house Tina felt all alone. She felt no one loved he. So she did the unthinkable, killed herself. She went to the train station and just stepped in front of a moving train. 

Reactions -  

    we felt sad  

    we felt like killing her Mom 

    We felt angry as we did not know who raped her 

    we felt all alone 

    we felt like blaming Tina her Mom 

    we were confused 

This group were able to evaluate their reactions to a both a suicide story and the problems  of being disbelieved when reporting a rape. 


Relationship Group G  

Tracey and Jim had been friends for over two years. However, as the relationship progressed and both began to live in the same house it seemed as if the relationship was going down hill. 

Tracey would prepare breakfast and dinner for Jim but as time went by Jim began to make demands of Tracey. Demands he had no right to make. He would hit her because the dinner was late in being prepared or the house was in his opinion, not tidied properly. Very soon Tracey was being beaten every day for reasons which Jim would shout and curses in a loud voice, adding to Tracey’s humiliation. Sometimes she would try to fight back but he would somehow over power her. Anyway, one day she got tired of his abuse. She decided that she would kill him or move out if he hit her again. 

That night he came home and found many faults with what was done in the house. He began to hit her al over her body. Tracey felt used and so badly abused. Eventually she found the strength to it back. She felt all the frustrations she had held back all those times he had hit her. She picked up a vase, while he recovered from a particularly vicious attack she had made on him. As he began to move once more towards her , she hit him in the head with the vase. 

Thereafter she picked up the phone to report the incident. With tears of frustration, anger and release she met the police as they came to her gate. 

 The victim who turned on the abuser.  This gave the opportunity for discussion of alternative ways of handling the situation, the differences between revenge and self protection and the need for valuing oneself within an abusive relationship. Why did she stay to be beaten for so long? Should frustration be allowed to build up to such levels before doing anything about it?  Many class members could relate to similar scenes in their own families. 

Group B 

Kanaisha’s Abuse at her Aunt’s Home 

Kanaisha was two years old when her mom died in a car accident, so she had to go and live with her aunt and her husband and two children.  When Kanaisha started maturing her husband started touching her. He kept doing it for a period of time. Then she decided that she can’t take any more of it so she went and tell her aunt.  

Her aunt said to her that she can’t do anything about  it because he is the one providing food and it is his house.  Kanaisha had to cope with it because her aunt told her that if she told anyone she would send her on the street to live.  Kanaisha started wondering if her aunt’s husband is touching his two daughters so she went to her school guidance teacher and told what had happened. 

The guidance teacher called Kanaisha, her aunt, her aunt’s husband and the police. They all worked out what had happened and Kanaisha’s aunt and aunt’s husband confessed to it and Kanaisha’s aunt and her aunt’s husband was lock up and charge. Kanaisha was adopted by a nice couple and her cousins were put in a children’s home. 

When the aunt’s husband did it the first time she could go to her aunt and if her aunt did nothing she could go to her guidance teacher earlier and then to the police ad the police would take it from there. 

A common scenario for children in a foster situation. Difficult to deal with when the bread winner for the family is the abuser. When do we provoke family breakdown and loss of earnings due to prosecution for abuse? What is the greater evil. The turning point here was the young girl protecting other children – should she have had the self worth to protect herself? 

The Beatings - Group C 

David was eight years old. His daily chores after school involved feeding the dogs, washing the dishes, tidying the house and trimming the hedges when they needed it. Too much for and eight eyar old, right? No Not according to his father David Beating IIIrd. 

David’s father was 34 and still suffering from the scars of being excessively flogged as a boy. This seemed to be a family tradition. His father , his father’s father and the father before that all seemed to believe that a proper ‘licking’ with a piece of barb wire was what a boy needed to set him straight. Each successive parent would transform the pain, frustration and anger inside in to blows fists and lashes of abuse. 

At school, David was withdrawn and did not participate much in class and school activities. He was not very bright and so was teased and jeered by most of his classmates. He had very few friends and did not trust or desire the friendship of his male teachers. His many bruises and cuts were either hidden deep under his skin or under his shirt. No one suspected that he was being abused. To them he was an unfriendly or shy child. 

One day after PE at school David dragged himself home very tired. He raked the yard, tidied the house and washed the dishes. Then he went to bed. When his father came home from work at 8 in the evening he noticed the dishes washed and the yard raked . He hit David violently in his upper back and surprised the sleeping child. 

“Yu Feed the dogs ..” 

“No Dad ..” 

Before David could finish his sentence his father used his huge hands to slap him across his face. 

“Yu worthless piece of trash you. Yu can’t do notin. Yu are no use to me” His father marched out of the room and David knew exactly where he was heading. He went to the tool shed and grabbed a piece of barb wire. With years of anger blinding his eyes, he stormed to his son’s room and started to lace the child’s back with the wire. David pleaded and cried but his father’s ears were deafened by hate and years of degradation. David did not understand why his father would beat him so badly. He could not understand why he was not loved. He thought maybe daddy misses mummy. Maybe daddy had a hard day at work. Then lastly he thought - maybe I am a bad boy and I don’t deserve to be loved. With this thought he went to sleep. 


The next day at school was torture. The barb wire had torn bits of the flesh off his back and he couldn’t sit with his back on the chair. At lunch he sat alone as usual. SMACK! A bully passed and hit him on his back. The hit itself did not cause much pain but it must have tore some loose skin off as it burned him and there was a little blood on his shirt. After lunch a teacher watched him as he got up and noticed the spot of blood on his clothes. She asked him what was wrong but he refused to tell her. She brought him to the nurse who asked him to remove his shirt. He reluctantly undid his buttons and took is shirt off. The secret was out. The nurse was amazed to see the state of his back. Loose skin hung and his flesh was exposed in some parts. The nurse called the police who came and took David to a home. His father was called and questioned. 

David stayed in the foster home for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks was a court hearing. The judge recommended that both David and his father get counselling and a decision be made at the end of the sessions.  

After months of counselling David’s father got over his anger and pain and David at 8 years old decided he would never abuse his children. 

 Of course this was David’s own painful story – a certain amount of catharsis of pain occurred in the telling in class and he gained a lot of support from the reactions of his peers. 


 The poem below is a similar outpouring. 

Beating By KA Walker 

 My father beats me up 

just like his father did 

And grandad was beaten by 

Greatgrandad as a kid

From generation to generation 

A poisoned apple is passed along

And no-one thinking it’s wrong 

and it is 

Not the arguing the cursing the frustration or fear 

A normal child can cope with that, it grows easier by the year. 

But the using abusing and beatings 

Feeling the child is somewhat property owned 

In this family violence condoned. 

The peer counselling course provides a forum not only for learning how to handle problems of others and how to deal with queries coming from peers in the schools – it also provides an avenue to explore the self and to obtain peer support from within the class. 

Participating in such a course can evoke very powerful feelings and images in the minds of the youth who attend and it is essential that those leading the sessions are able to take up the material presented and handle it appropriately so that young people do not leave the room burdened by feelings which have been rekindled  but not dealt with. The leader must be able to contain the engendered feelings thus providing a safe environment for learning and for personal growth.

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