A sixty-three-year-old woman, who shall be referred to as Mary to protect her identity, has been forced to come to grips with a new normal after she contracted HIV from her employer, who sexually assaulted her in 2020.
Like many sexual assault victims, Mary did not report the incident to the police and expressed that she has no plans to as she continues to struggle with a lingering feeling of shame. Sixty years old at the time of the assault, Mary had not been in a sexual relationship with a man for nearly 20 years, prioritising her children and her religion above her personal life.
However, as one of the many Jamaicans who were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, she journeyed to Kingston for work as her community offered few opportunities. Sharing her story for the first time, Mary told the Jamaica Star that she had found short-term employment as a caregiver, and for a time, everything was okay.
But her life was later turned upside down by what, at first, appeared to be a good job opportunity from her employer’s neighbour, who offered her full-time, live-in employment to take care of his mother. After accepting the neighbour’s offer, she was taken to the room where she would be staying on her first day of work, settled in, and then went to bed. Mary later awoke in shock to find her boss on top of her, and unable to fight him off, she was raped by her new employer. Struggling to come to terms with what had happened to her, she at first tried to work for the remainder of the week, with plans to collect her pay and not return.
But she could not bring herself to stay there any longer than the second day and left after getting enough money for transportation. Months later, she began experiencing extreme tiredness and weight loss and eventually developed a seemingly untreatable skin rash earlier this year. The elderly woman was later diagnosed with HIV.
Mary shared that when faced with questions by a doctor about whether she had ever taken part in prostitution or taken drugs, she was overcome by anger. However, they have been taking care of her, and now that she is on medication and has received counselling, Mary expressed that she is doing better. According to Mary, she still has not told her children and could only bring herself to tell an officer if she knew them.