79.6 F
Cruz Bay
Sunday, January 29, 2023



Oct. 6, 2001 – More than 600 women and perhaps 15 men assembled Saturday at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort to talk about "What Women Don't Talk About" at Sen. Lorraine Berry's 6th annual Women's Conference.
For the last two years, Berry's forums have focused on family issues involving children and youth, examining relationships, responsibilities and sexual awareness. Saturday's conference skipped a generation of two but basically addressed these same issues, although on a different level.
Berry said she conferred with experts who make "the study of the human condition" their life's work — social workers, psychologists, counselors — in planning the program for this years' "no-holds-barred" theme. If any woman left Saturday's day-long conference feeling she was alone in her "secrets," she simply must not have been listening.
Serving on conference panels were Pastor Marcia J. Estrada of the Kingdom Life International Christian Center; Michal Rhymer, executive director of Family Resource Center; Carol Henneman, educator, author and media specialist; Dr. Margaret Sprauve, gynecologist and maternal/fetal health specialist; attorneys Terrylyn Smock, Cindy Haro and Aquannette Chinnery; and Yvette de Laubanque, director of the V.I. Women's Business Center.
The program was moderated by Patricia R. Todman, psychologist and program coordinator of the University of the Virgin Islands Social Sciences Division.
A lively and emotional video presentation by an inspirational speaker set the tone for the day's discussions. On the tape, Pastor Juanita Bynum strode across a stage in a shocking pink outfit and high heels telling the women to get honest, "No more sheets." Bynum graphically illustrated her points by girding herself in bed sheets, which she said bind women in "wrong ideas."
These, she said, could be hurts from previous relationships, depression, abuse and/or low self-esteem — all representing layers of abuse, physical of emotional. Relating vivid stories of her own past, she laid out the dangers of marrying without knowing your partner well. "You should do a credit check," she said emphatically. "Check up on him before you check in with him … Is he able to submit to authority? Does he have aspirations, a future? Do your friends and family like him?"
Byrum emphasized that marriage is a covenant relationship. Stripping off all her sheets, she concluded, "Commit to yourself and God — no more sheets."
Estrada and Rhymer took up in person where Bynum left off on tape. Estrada stressed the reasons for the success of her marriage of many years. "We respect each other. We have developed together in mind, body, spirit and finances," she said. Sex is important, and even fun, she said, but that is not what marriage is about.
Sprauve encouraged her audience to speak openly about sexual concerns, those things most women shy away from even with their own doctors. "Choose a provider you are comfortable with," she advised. "Women don't ask their doctors about important things — masturbation, sexual abuse, dysfunction, sex drive or lack of it, oral sex, anal sex, abortion," she said.
A member of the audience raised a question about having sex with multiple partners and then finding out you have a sexually transmitted disease. Sprauve said the ethical thing would be to go to a Health Department STD clinic and provide information on your partners. She said this can also be done anonymously, if not in person.
Henneman held her audience in thrall from her opening statement: In the Virgin Islands, "We don't wear sheets," she announced. "We have king-size quilts." She lamented that so many Virgin Islands young women and girls think, "If they get his sperm, get his child, he will commit to them." In a word, she said, that's "Foolish!"
It takes men longer to become emotionally attached than it does women, Henneman said. She said she got married at 18 and readily admitted, "I didn't know what I was doing." But she figured it out, however, and soon will be celebrating 30 years of marriage to Myron Henneman.
Stressing the importance of mutual respect in marriage, she said, "We have no barriers. I am free to do what I want, talk to whomever I want … I live with a man I can reason with."
Her words of wisdom frequently had the auditorium roaring with laughter and applause: "Getting babies don't make you a woman." "You don't want anybody else's husband in your bed." "I expect a man to control his penis." And last, "If your husband's sleeping with your daughter, throw him out."
Moving the discussion into the realm of economics, de Laubanque said women have pervasive secrecy regarding money. "How many of you have had a best friend for more than five years?" she asked. And then, "How much does she make?" Given that most friends wouldn't know, she added, "That's because we are competitive, not supportive."
And they need to be supportive, she continued: Although women are statistically less likely to default on loans, they don't get preferential treatment — and only get about 5 percent of the equity that a man would receive in loans. "You have to take responsibility for yourself," she said.
De Laubanque has helped women on St. Croix move into jobs through the Welfare to Work program, creatively finding opportunities for candidates with little or no work experience. The Women's Business Center is "not a loan agency,"she stressed, but it does provide "micro-loans" to help women get started in business ventures. "We have seven women where they want to be right now, in their own businesses, starting from $5,000," she said.
Starting one's own business, she emphasized, requires commitment. "You have to be passionate. It's your life — no more 9 to 5."
Scattered throughout the mostly middle-age and older female audience were a few men. Calvin Christopher, a tall, youngish and fashionably dressed Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas Resort membership executive, was sitting alone during the presentation. But he found himself surrounded by women right afterward, all wondering what he was doing there.
"These things are good to know," he said with a smile. "They say what you don't know won't hurt you, but I disagree."
Jeff Chander said Berry invited him to attend last year, and he learned from that conference. "So, I decided to come again this time," he said. "It always helps to know more about the opposite sex."
Vincent Henry, an American Federation of Teachers St. Thomas local representative, said Berry had invited him this time. "It's open talk," he said. "I have a relationship, and I've learned some things that can strengthen our relationship. Finances are always a big issue. I'm enjoying it."
After a buffet lunch where the audience was serenaded by the Kingdom Life International Church Band, the afternoon session was devoted to discussions between audience participants and the presenters.
Sponsoring the event were WOW! (Wider Opportunities for Women Inc., which Berry founded after she organized the first conference), Chase Manhattan Bank, Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, the V.I. Housing Authority, the Education Department, the St. John Action Committee and Cape Air.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.