The news hits you, with the impact of a pre-Holyfield Tyson hook to the head. Your motor skills are instantaneously frozen. For several minutes afterward you remain not fully recovered: your countenance has transmogrified into a representation of hate, rage and, yes, revenge!
Blame it all on the day’s lunch-hour headline: “Man Rapes 5-Year Old!”
You abandon the task at hand that minutes earlier had seemed so important. You’re in a state of absolute bewilderment. Like a canine in response to its master’s voice, your ears spring to attention, determined not to miss the devil in the details. Meanwhile, you’re thinking: If this had been my daughter . . .
The issue of escalating rape in Saint Lucia, sadly, is not a front-burner issue. Never has been. And the fact that we hear more and more about child molestation has done little to change our general and official attitude to this persistent horror—even though, reportedly, we rate as having the highest per capita rape figures in the world.
Earlier this year in Micoud, a 7-year-old girl was raped by an 18-year-old male. Reportedly she was taking a shower at a public facility when she was attacked. The alleged rapist was said to have been “mentally challenged” but that did not have much impact on the community. The chose to take the law in their own
hands and handed the alleged rapist a good hiding, as they say.
Last week in Richfond, Dennery, two brothers aged 19 and 21, who reportedly had raped a 6-year-old girl on June 25, were arrested and then released “pending further investigation.”
The public questions that usually follow such attacks seldom have anything to do with the official attitude to rape, or with the sickening statistics. Despite the numerous incidents, rape is the crime least reported to the local authorities. The relative few that are reported are either forgotten soon afterward or withdrawn mid-trial.
There are many reasons for this sad state of affairs, among them the further victimizing of rape victims by the system and the time it takes before rape charges come to court, often several years.
Earlier this month, Saint Lucia’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Charles-Clarke, spoke out on child sexual abuse, expressing it is a “matter of grave concern.” Speaking to the media she added that while much attention is focused on murder cases, sexual abuse matters are the most prevalent offenses at the courts.
Asked to comment on the general belief that pedophiles often escape the justice system, the DPP said:
“I wouldn’t say they escape. I think the laws are there and once the reports are made and investigations are conducted and persons are charged, they go through the criminal justice system; but there are factors that cause a lot of these cases not to go through the full course of the judicial process.”
She said the two main reasons for the non-prosecution of child sexual abuse cases are 1) they are largely unreported; and 2) the abrupt termination of such cases by parents of child victims.
“We see a lot of cases where parents indicate that they do not want the prosecution to continue,” said the DPP.
“Also, we are aware, although we may not have the real evidence, that there are a lot of ‘arrangements’ being made outside of the criminal justice system, where victims and accused enter into agreements.”