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Senator relives rape ordeal as vigil held for victims of domestic abuse

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Candlelight vigil held by the charity Safe Spaces Bermuda at Victoria Park. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A senator yesterday fought back tears as she told colleagues about her rape ordeal.

The emotional moment came ahead of a vigil in Hamilton calling for more support for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Lindsay Simmons, junior minister for Social Development and Seniors and Home Affairs, told Senators she had decided to make her horrific experiences public in order to try and help others.

Ms Simmons said that she was viciously attacked when she broke off a relationship with a man in 2002.

She said: “I ended the relationship and a few minutes later I was chased into my bathroom with a machete.

“I was beaten severely with the flat part of it. I remember when the officers came to my house one looked at me and said to the other officer ‘she looks like a beat-up rag doll’.

“Eighty per cent of my body had welts all over it. I knew that we could no longer be together. I had never been assaulted in my life.

“A couple of months later I had a knock on my door. With tears in his eyes he said that he wanted to talk and apologise for his actions.

Swearing In Ceremony at Government House. Pictured- Senator Lindsay Simmons (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“And, yes, I let him in to talk. This ended up being a huge mistake.

“This decision changed my life for ever.

“I was beaten with a ratchet. I was raped continuously. I was tortured for hours.

“And I was scared from the inside out.

“After hours of being held against my will he let me go. And when I was free I called the police and he was arrested.”

Candlelight vigil in memory of Morissa Moniz, held by the charity Safe Spaces Bermuda at Victoria Park. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The senator said that she felt forced to drop the charges following a campaign of intimidation against herself and her family.

Referring to her attacker, Ms Simmons said: “He promised that he would leave the island, and at the time I believed I was doing the right thing to protect my family.

“A couple of nights later, he broke into my house while I was asleep. He dragged me out of my bed. I had my hair pulled out. I was beaten, stabbed.

“He raped me. I begged for my life and I knew he was stronger than me... I just wanted it to end.

“I almost gave up, but I knew at 23 I that I wasn’t ready to die. I no longer wanted to be his victim. I wanted to live and I was going to be a survivor.

“After almost nine hours of torture I was finally free. I made it to my dad’s house with blood all over me. My face scratched-up and I was broken.

“He let me go because I promised that I would leave the island within two days.

“When my dad saw me he couldn’t even look at me.”

Ms Simmons then pressed charges and the man was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The senator, who waived her right to anonymity after the trial, said attitudes towards domestic violence needed to change.

She added: “I have been asked on more than one occasion how can a boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend, rape you? He was someone you were used to.

“A lot of people didn’t understand. But the answer will always be the same. I said no. No one has the right to take advantage of you, touch you, when you say no.

“We have to change the mentality of some. We are not anyone’s possession or property.”

Candlelight vigil in memory of Morissa Moniz, held by the charity Safe Spaces Bermuda at Victoria Park. Pictured- Antonio Belvedere (left) and Gina Spence (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Antonio Belvedere, a founding member of the group Safe Space Bermuda, praised Ms Simmons for speaking out on the topic of sexual assault.

He said: “I know Lindsay personally, and she’s a strong woman. That’s amazing of her to step up, because it’s an uncomfortable topic.

“For a woman to say that in the Senate is big.”

Mr Belvedere was speaking at the vigil in Victoria Park last night.

He said Bermuda’s legislation for victims of domestic violence needed to be updated.

“Women do not feel safe calling the police, or safe, period.

“Women are not the only victims – men are too, but we do not see a lot of men dying from it; it’s women.”

Mr Belvedere said it was “crazy Government denied my large group exemption” for holding the vigil, and said it had “frustrated me to tears”.

But he vowed to “go ahead with it, because it needs to happen” and said he had told police it would proceed outdoors with social distancing and masks worn.

Senator Lindsay Simmons (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Candlelight vigil held by the charity Safe Spaces Bermuda at Victoria Park. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)