Stories, outcries and outrage were rampant last week (including a story in last weekend’s STAR) on the increase in reported incidents of rape. To date there have been more than forty reported cases of rape in Saint Lucia for the year and more than 30 reported incidents of persons under the age of 12 being sexually violated.
Then, this week another horror story of rape – a 97-year-old woman of Mon Repos was allegedly raped and buggered in her own home. This story has again sparked outrage in the community with callers to various talk shows demanding stiffer penalties for perpetrators. Senator Mary Isaac has gone so far as asking for the life sentence to be applied to persons found guilty of rape.
But how long before the talking stops and it is back to business as usual? How long before the discussions cease and serious action is taken?
In a statement this week prime minister Kenny Anthony added his voice to the issue. He described the increased reports of rape across the island as “a worrying trend”.
“For too long we have been silent about sexual violence in our homes and our communities. In many instances, persons know there are fathers, uncles, stepfathers and others who commit deviant sexual acts in homes and communities and nothing is said or done,” Anthony said.
“Quite often the perpetrators are protected. These unreported cases lead to an even greater problem in our society, where these men grow to believe that this is acceptable behaviour. We need to tackle the problems at the root,” he added in the press statement.
According to the prime minister, he has recommended to Acting Commissioner Errol Alexander that a special unit be established within the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force to investigate rape cases and to also build a database that stores DNA evidence to determine whether some of these cases are being committed by repeat offenders.
“We have serial rapists at large,” he says.
The prime minister expressed hope that the intended reopening of the forensic laboratory, under new management, would better assist police in conducting investigations and testing DNA samples.
He stressed, however, that the first, most important response is that people report known sex offenders.
But how comforting are the prime minister’s words, knowing full well that the country’s laws do not include having a sex offenders registry? Added to that, alleged perpetrators are also protected by the state, and their identities cannot be revealed, not even by the media.
As minister of finance, the prime minister has also cut the spend on the police, as announced in the last budget and the courts and justice system remains in shambles. Rape cases, like so many other cases, take forever to prosecute in Fair Helen.
The prime minister alluded to the “intended reopening” of the forensic lab, a lab that has been beleaguered with issues since its opening and was shut down earlier this year. How long before the lab will be not just reopened but fully operational and equipped to deal with rape and other crime?
While these and many other questions remain unanswered, in light of the recent increase in reported rape and other sexual offences, the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force, through its Vulnerable Persons Team and Criminal Investigations Department, this week announced that it has implemented “new strategies”.
According to a statement from the RSLPF it is expected that this new strategy will not only assist in minimizing the occurrence of rape incidents on the island, but also increase the arrest rate of offenders.
The Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Severin Monchery has stated: “No stone will be left unturned as the RSLPF seeks to bring a stop to the attacks by those who prey on vulnerable persons in Saint Lucia.”
On the recent incidents of rape, police say they have one person assisting with investigations into the alleged rape this week of the 97-year-old woman. Additionally a Jamaican security guard was formally charged for rape in connection with an incident, which occurred on Reduit beach, Rodney Bay on the night of Saturday, October 31st, 2015.
And in connection with the gang rape of two 16-year-old females in Rodney Bay, Gros Islet, three males are reportedly in custody assisting with the investigations. DNA samples from the suspects have been sent overseas for testing, police have confirmed.
While the beleaguered RSLPF should be commended for its officers’ actions, it remains to be seen how swiftly the hands of justice move in bringing the perpetrators to justice. Or will they, like so many others, languish at Bordelais on remand?