St Lucia police are investigating an aggravated assault on two female British nationals. The women were reportedly ambushed by six masked men on Tuesday evening (May 10), shortly before midnight, at Grande Anse Beach.
Reports indicate the women were on an environmental expedition which entailed camping at the location. The women had been camped out near the beach since Monday May 9, a day prior to the incident. Further reports suggest that on the night in question, the women returned to their camp site to find their belongings had been tampered with. Police sources reveal that the women began making preparations to depart from the area when the men brutally attacked and raped them both. Reports are that the men fled the scene when they noticed the headlights of an approaching vehicle.
While investigations are continuing into the matter, the St Lucia Crisis Centre has spoken out on the incident. Counselor Ashley Rae noted that people need to be more cognizant and aware of their surroundings, especially in unfamiliar or secluded areas.
“It just highlights how anyone has to be careful when they’re going to the beaches at night, even if you are in a car. Sitting in a car does not make you safe,” said Rae.
“It is never pleasant to hear situations of rape happening. The Crisis Centre wants women to know there is a place to go to receive care and counseling services. Our services are free. We do have sexual assault group for women and there’s also a 24/7, seven days a week, Crisis Hotline. The numbers are 7127574 and 4536848,” encouraged Rae.
Director of Gender Relations, Charms Gaspard, revealed there has been an alarming rate of aggravated rapes in St Lucia based on the size of the population. She went further to say the situation is not confined to St Lucia. The Caribbean as a whole has been recording increasing trends of sexual assault.
Given the problems faced in data collection and research on island, Gaspard says “it’s been difficult to pull out these areas to follow, access records, because the frontline institutions do not necessarily have the capacity to be able to get the kind of data that would be able to give you the kind of information you would require. Also, because agencies want to protect their data, it is difficult to access for research purposes.”
Considering the high incidents of sexual abuse and sexual violence in the region, UNIFEM have funded a project for Caribbean territories centered around increasing state accountability and the level of response in cases of sexual violence against women.
In St Lucia, there is a draft national strategy for gender based violence but it is not ready for public dissemination at this point. It looks at strengthening the state’s mechanisms and the state’s processes.
Unfortunately, St Lucia does not have a Rape Crisis Centre. Gaspard indicated there is a Vulnerable Persons Unit within the Royal St Lucia Police Force specifically aimed to assist victims of sexual abuse. However, as it stands, the unit does not have the capacity to counsel victims.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission in St Lucia has expressed its sympathies to the victims.
British High Commissioner Karl Burrows described the incident as a “dreadful crime” saying “we are in touch with the St Lucia police force and they are confident of a successful outcome.”
For Burrows, his major disappointment is that news of the incident reached the High Commission via the media. He said, “That’s not the way things work and we are disappointed we were not contacted directly by the police but hopefully we will be able to put procedures in order or remind the St Lucia police of what sort of procedures should be followed.”
He continued, sharing his thoughts and giving safety advice for visitors to St Lucia. Burrows said, “As far as all crimes are concerned, we obviously have a particular responsibility for British nationals in St Lucia. To put it into context, we have about 75,000 British visitors to St Lucia each year and the vast majority of visits are incident free. Our advice to British nationals is that common sense rules apply. There is crime as there is everywhere but St Lucia is a friendly and welcoming country. Overall crime rates are low but common sense rules do apply. We advise against being in isolated areas after dark.”
The STAR has been reliably informed that police are now questioning at least four men in relation to this incident. Update in Wednesday’s STAR.