Jamaican sports star finds a new life in Norwich after being forced to flee her country
16:35 08 July 2014
Donine Wiles was a sports star at the top of her game until a violent gang rape, aimed at curing her of her sexuality, forced her to flee her beloved home country.
Women are treated as inferior, and men get treated like kings’
Donine admits she misses Jamaica – particularly the beach, her family and her community.
But she knows she could never be herself there.
“I want to save my beautiful country,” she said. “It’s sad that women are treated as the inferior race and men get treated like kings and they can’t be touched. It’s easier there to drop out of school, have a baby and be someone’s girlfriend than it is to stay in school and get an education. And it’s easy to get involved in corruption.”
Donine also feels things have got worse for homosexuals in Jamaica, a Christian country where loving someone of the same sex is considered a sin.
“The lyrics in Jamaican music have got more homophobic,” she said.
“And music is very important there, people follow what it says. They sing about killing lesbians and killing gays – anyone who is not what they think is right.”
Now living in Norwich, the 32-year-old Jamaican wants to share her harrowing story in the hope of saving other women from a similar fate.
After years of silence, Donine now feels able to give her account – of being held at gunpoint by men from her area, forced into a bedroom where she was blindfolded, her mouth stuffed and her hands tied behind her back. She recounts praying to God to keep her alive while up to ten men attacked her.
Donine was just 15 and a celebrity in Jamaica when she walked home from training in broad daylight with a female friend to get ready for a party.
A table tennis star, who also played football for her country, Donine realised she was gay at the age of 13.
“It’s a crime to be gay in Jamaica – they beat you with the Bible to try and stop you,” she said. “When we got to my house, these men backed us up to the door at gunpoint and told us we weren’t leaving. They said, ‘You’re not going anywhere, you dirty lesbian.’
“They took my friend, who was not my girlfriend, into one room and me into another and for four hours we went through this ordeal. I remember praying and asking God to preserve my life.”
It was a call by her attackers to a friend which Donine feels saved her.
“They phoned this man to ask him if he wanted to come and ‘join in’, but when he got there he asked to see my face,” she said.
“He asked them if they knew who I was. He said, ‘It’s Donine, she’s a star’, and told them to let me go.”
But the ordeal was far from over. Donine reported the incident to the police, was tested for sexually transmitted infections and given the morning-after pill in case she was pregnant.
She and her friend were then supposed to help get the men responsible prosecuted for their crimes.
“I had to be hidden away and kept from the public because I was famous. My family were getting the backlash from what had happened,” she said.
“A couple of months later, I picked the men out in a line-up, they had previous convictions, they were locked away. But I had to be locked away. My livelihood depended on me playing sport and I couldn’t do that any more.”
She applied for asylum in England, to escape the case and the trauma, but it was not the dream she thought it might be.
She arrived with nothing, had to find her own accommodation and did not have the right to work. Living in London, she relied on favours from people and did odd jobs for cash.
“It was like being a prisoner in an open cell,” said Donine.
“Everywhere I turned was a dead end for me. I had no money and no family and I still
blamed myself for what happened to me.”
After 15 years of seeking asylum, Donine decided life was so bad in England, she might as well return to Jamaica.
She phoned the Home Office to ask for permission to go home and was told she would be granted asylum.
They offered her a place in Liverpool, Manchester or Norwich and having arrived here nine months ago, Donine is happy with her choice. “I feel really free here, like I can be myself,” she said. “Even when I got my papers, I wanted to stay here. I’ve had a rough time, I want some peace and quiet now.”
Do you have a story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org