Now, model and aspiring businesswoman Annecia Morgan wants to be among the loudest voices denouncing the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and is simultaneously advocating fair treatment of Jamaicans living with the deadly diseases — children in particular.
Morgan, 23, survived a stain-filled, seven-year period of sexual abuse by her stepfather, something which has not only made her a stronger person, but has given her the courage to speak up for others who may find themselves in similar situations, due to no fault of their own.
In interviews during the time that she entered the Miss Jamaica Universe contest last year, Morgan chronicled her pain and distress at having to endure the lengthy period of molestation and eventual sexual penetration against her will that threatened to destabilise her personal development, until she mustered the courage to fight on, despite suicidal thoughts.
“I want to be a loud voice out there,” she told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week.
“I will be that advocate for sexually abused children, especially those who have contracted HIV.
Already, she has reached out to some organisations with a view of raising the platform for her project, among them Jamaica AIDS Support, a meeting she described as “promising”.
The objective is not only to champion the cause of abused children in a verbal way, but also to put on events that will raise money to buy some of the things that abused children need most.
Looking back at the agony of being sexually molested and raped, Morgan — a model contracted by Pulse International modelling agency — said that her experience was one that would force any ordinary person to crumble.
After living with her aunt shortly after birth, she was forced to live with her mother and stepdad after the aunt decided to pursue a job opportunity in the United States. According to her, “that’s when everything went haywire”.
The Irish Pen, Spanish Town, St Catherine-born had her first encounter with the individual as an eight-year-old pupil of Crescent Primary School.
“On the first occasion, I was totally speechless when it happened. I was so confused. I was like, this happened to me, what do I do? At the same time, I had this guilty feeling that I was going to be blamed for it. My mother had such a strong personality, so I was afraid to tell her anything.
“First it was molestation. Whenever my mom was at work, that’s when he took the chance to take advantage of me. When I was 14 penetration started.
“My mother was loud, she cursed a lot, and she was a smoker. I could tell her the simplest of things and she would flare-up for no reason. So can you imagine telling her what happened? How she would react…
“I didn’t like it, but whenever my mom would be at work, I had this daunting feeling of oh no, it’s that time again,” she reflected.
Much of her time at Spanish Town High School was spent lamenting her personal issues, and despite managing to graduate, her academic achievements were not something that one would grab a microphone and announce on a public platform.
“I was suicidal. I eventually told my mother about everything. She knew about the molestation, but when I told her about the rape she bashed me, she called me all sorts of names — ‘worthless bitch’, ‘tek people man’ — those types of things. I didn’t feel that I needed to live any more. I eventually did counselling and got over it,” she stated.
The abuse would eventually end by the time she turned 15. But the emotional scars were still evident.
Urged again by her aunt who had returned to Jamaica to run her own business, she auditioned at Pulse and has been doing shows for that outfit since 2015, even walking at London Fashion Week. She also assists her aunt with the management of the shop, as well as doing make-up, eyelashes, eyebrows, among other things.
It’s a major improvement from the time that she begged in the streets of Spanish Town, as a teenager when her mom was unemployed, the family house was devoid of electricity and had limited food. The addition of a baby sister and a dependence on a stepfather whose financial contribution was paltry and intermittent, made life almost unbearable for the family.
“I used to plan out my day pretty much. I was able to get money, but so many men were coming after me and I would have to run and stay far away from certain men at times. I would often approach elderly men and women when I’m walking on the streets and they would give me money.”
Morgan desires to be a successful entrepreneur specialising in cosmetics and make-up items. She wants to establish her own cosmetics line, especially for people of colour.
“I want to expand my horizon with different kinds of make-up that work for black people or people of colour,” she said, while setting herself a deadline of age 30 to realise that dream.
“But importantly, I must advocate for persons living with HIV. I saw how my mother was living and because of persons in the community, the way they treated her, caused her to shut down and lock away from society.
“There is still a stigma with HIV. Most persons would want to ask, your mother had it, so what about you? That should not be the case, whether you have it or not. The most important thing is to enlighten people, just get it across about this virus that they are living with.“HIV doesn’t define who you are … it’s just a disease. If people get the support, they will be encouraged. They will have the will to live even more, they will go to their appointment. They will take their medication on time. They are not going to really pay attention to what people have to say,” Morgan said.