Men in high places across the region have advice for schoolgirls.
Girls are either raping themselves, lying about rape, dressing immorally or failing to parang responsibly.
The AG conveniently did not mention what, if anything, the government planned to do to address rape, since by his own analysis it is a fact of life.
Research from the UK has demonstrated that rape of the most vulnerable women has been effectively decriminalised where 2 of every 3 rape allegations are not pursued beyond the investigation stage. In other words two thirds of rape allegations do not make it to trial. Researcher Betsy Stanko identifies the following attributes which result in the likelihood that a reported rape will not make it to trial:
1) The victim has a history of mental illness
2) The victim is or was in a relationship with her attacker
3) The victim has a learning disability
4) The victim consumed drugs or alcohol prior to the attack
She notes that “80 per cent of people reporting rape to the Metropolitan Police are considered vulnerable to sexual attack for one of a range of reasons – including being under 18, having mental health issues or learning disabilities, having drunk alcohol or taken drugs prior to the attack and being in an intimate relationship with the suspect.”
She concludes that rather that seeing these women and girls as unreliable witnesses, police investigators need to take a person’s vulnerability as evidence that they are more likely to be raped and investigate whether that vulnerability was exploited by the suspect.
In the Caribbean we know that rates of investigation, trial and conviction in cases of rape and sexual assault are extremely low. In other words, rapists can expect to get away with rape:
As of September, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) had revealed that there were a total of 140 reported cases of rape – about one case every two days. This is a reduction when compared with the 2013 figure of 179 between January to July.
[…] The Attorney General had also pointed out the blaring fact that in the years 2012 and 2013, only 22 cases had enough evidence to go to court and none resulted in a conviction, even with the Sexual Offences Act being completed in 2012. The Guyana Human Rights Authority had done a study in 2005 titled “Without Conviction: Sexual Violence Cases in The Guyana Justice Process”, which revealed that Guyana only reached an average conviction rate of 1.4 per cent in rape cases, indicating that not much has changed since then.
This year it was reported that Guyana did not have enough rape kits. In other cases rape did not even get investigated until women took to the streets in protest.
MESA is currently arguing that while they support sexual harassment legislation such legislation should include stiff penalties for women and girls who allege sexual harassment but eventually discontinue or fail to give evidence in the case.
In the Caribbean, a girl who is raped at age 12 can expect to see her case come to court when she is 20, that is, if the social stigma, family and community pressure have not already forced her and her family to discontinue the case. (Should the state not be able to bring these cases forward regardless of whether or not witnesses or families co-operate?)
To argue that legislation should deter women and girls from reporting crimes against them is not in men’s interest. It is in the interest of rapists.
Rape is a fact of life.
And so is getting away with rape.
We are left with empty advice. Rapists’ interests confused as men’s interests. A relentless culture of misogyny that is literally costing us our lives.
We are not going to take this! We are tired of paper rights. We are tired of being abused, violated and not being able to get justice. We are tired of lack of services, means to access services and poor services because money and resources are not given to improve such services. We are tired of being treated as third class citizens. We are tired of being ignored as our lives and the lives of our families grow more and more dangerous from all forms of violence including sexual violence. We are most of all tired of the hypocrisy, deception, lies, corruption, ignorance and ‘eye pass’. We are sick and tired of the wasteful and empty consultations and empty promises. We know the truth, and the truth is: in this dear land of Guyana, women and children pass for grass.
Well no more! We are not prepared to accept that there is no money for comprehensively addressing the scourge of sexual violence.
We have had enough and are prepared to fight for the world we want.
Check out these three online Caribbean media sources that have us excited about new ways of telling Caribbean stories!
Brilliant, fresh and socially engaged. Antillean Media Group has been in town for a long time and remain as relevant, creative and cutting edge as ever.
Describing itself as a celebration of millennial Caribbean voices, this is definitely a space to watch! So far we’re loving the outlets for creative writing and reflection.
With over 30 Caribbean feminist and social justice bloggers in its network there’s something at the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network website for everyone who’s passionate about the future of our region.
Leave us a comment and share any fresh Caribbean new media projects we need to know about!
Vile and Oblivious Politicians Support State Violence Against Children
At least three recent stories in Caribbean media have highlighted the systemic rape of boys and girls in state care and the horror houses known as children’s homes. Getting raped while literally under the care and protection of the state is a reprehensible violation and denial of bodily autonomy. Fleeing sexual abuse is what gets many girls in juvenile correctional facilities locked up in the first place. The abuse survivors are criminalized and re-victimized. Far from seeking to prevent sexual assault, reports from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana suggest that such violations are widespread. Support services for sexual assault survivors are non-existent. Continue reading
Here’s a video clip in which a Trini mom explains that after observing changes in her nine year-old son’s behaviour she became worried that something was wrong. On attending a PTA meeting she heard teacher express concern about boys performing oral sex on each other at school. She then states (quite matter-of-factly, in my opinion) that only after she beat her son, to get him to talk, she explains, did he admit to having been raped and bullied at school. She suspected that he was being victimised and her last resort to get him to open up to her about that victimisation was to beat him, to use violence against him. Continue reading