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The complexities of rape victims’ cases in the Caribbean

By Derrick Miller From Caribbean News Now

A sexual assault alarm: Stuck in traffic on a commuter bus one evening heading home from work, I came across an article published on October 2, 2018, by the Detroit Free Press about two women raped in Jamaica at an exclusive hotel by an employee hired few days earlier.

He crawled up a balcony, armed with a handgun; he entered their hotel room and raped them both. These victims fought back, and he was shot in the arm with his own weapon, he was arrested when he sought medical attention at a local hospital who alerted law enforcement.

This sexual predator was once brought in for questioning in other suspected rape cases in another parish by local law enforcement, but managed to escape on foot. This search went cold and was called off like many others before.

It was much easier to join a few on social media on the subject, where some missed the burden women often face from counter attacks by the misinformed about liability or culpability when they have been raped and seek justice.

Some argued that it is not a Caribbean problem alone or an isolated incident or misunderstanding.

In fact, this is a form of minimization, shame, guilt and hopelessness to deflect from the negative press, as the Caribbean region continues to struggle to maintain a firm grip sexual violence.

In many rape cases studies have shown, some believe that she must have asked for it, flirting, dressing provocatively or being promiscuous, and was out outside the safety of their homes.

Rape is simply an unlawful sexual activity carried out forcefully against someone’s will regardless of location.

This mentality silences victims from coming forward, and further isolates the seriousness of sexual assault crimes along these beautiful shores that necessitates responsiveness while holding offenders accountable.

The focus, especially in resorts, is simply awareness, adequate services, and a safe space for victims.

Between 25 to 35 percent of women will be raped at some point and many choose not to come forward; especially the younger generation, some studies have shown.

Maybe new welcome packages for all visitors should have an insert on how to handle sexual assaults or suspicion, and unwanted behaviour.

Local managers and human resources must now re-evaluate their hiring policies and practices, although it is difficult to know these predators’ intent

The institutional barriers: This recent global case will not change the island immediately. Despite tough laws that hold offenders accountable on these islands, after sentencing could use an upgrade to reduce the chance of re-offending, and especially in relation to victims’ rights

Many rural courts lack resources even to order an assessment from experts to diagnose to further treat these dangerous offenders.

Concerns about cases held for long periods before trial while some predators are released on bail, free to move like the ocean, only to target victims and re-offend.

Reporting rape or even domestic violence incidents is sometimes not handled in the right way.

Victims often spend several hours at police stations to file an incident, and any chance to collect DNA evidence if equipped quickly diminishes.

Specialized training to handle sensitive cases is still an issue. Some victims’ interviews are conducted in the open. Poorly run and underfunded medical systems tend to lack the skills or authority to guide when one comes forward.

Furthermore, overcoming unrealistic expectation of suspicion because a victim may have had a relationship with the perpetrators.

In an earlier report, it talked about one foreign student on a study abroad program was sexually assaulted and robbed, only to be brought to the airport in her pajamas and covered in dried blood after spending nine hours at a hospital

These victims face a long-term physical and emotional trauma, confusion, anger, suspicion, anxiety, and the negative perception that often follows.

There is still a wide debate between scholars and the role that masculinity and patriarchy play in these communities. Others point to colonialism, in which rape was a common practice of enslaved women carried over.

Although the Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of African slaves to the region remains a dark period and a complicated issue, these islands today are far more educated and not delimited.

Is it an aspect of the cultural music sexualized dance?

These islands obligation: What numbers of rape cases in the region resulted in a conviction, dismissal or unsolved?

Today several women still on these islands or ones who migrated have similar stories, but decided to remain silent.

The Caribbean region and its gated resorts are now at a crossroad to manage complaints promptly and effectively. To solve these issues, requires awareness, training, and accountability.

Law enforcement cannot do it alone, they too lack resources to track and solve these criminal cases.

Sadly, this story will be lost and over half-a-million will arrive again for a vacation on these islands, but it has opened a much-needed awareness and conversation along these shores.

In 2014, another report talked about a woman who was gang raped at the Sandals Resort in The Bahamas, and others sexually assaulted.

Additional reports out of Mexico, where about 170 tourists experienced illness, and blackouts in which offenders used date rape drugs, and tainted alcohol in drinks.

Several reports have noted that over 70 Americans have been sexually assaulted in Jamaica in a seven-year period.

The US embassy also warned of sexual assaults that occurred in residence hotels rooms, casinos, and cruise ships.

The game changer: Today’s “Me-Too Movement” has given victims a platform to come forward and talk about their bad experiences of powerful men who have behaved badly.

And although few men lost their jobs and faced criminal charges; several organizations survived and the culture remains.

Since this incident unfolded in Jamaica, others began to talk about their own past experiences at some of these 5-star hotels.

These stories, for decades, were kept in the dark because they were teenagers, and were scared to ruin their parent’s vacation.

What if these hotels were to be treated like a college campus where posters, and emergency buttons for awareness where studies have shown that almost 28 percent of college students surveyed reported some form of unwanted sexual contact.

There are also other victims of rape and murders from the gay and lesbian community. These cases are up against a high tide because many still see these same sex relationships as a sin.

I am also concerned about the ones who have not come forward, a high-school student, an employee whose life depends on that income, seeing these sexual predators daily in a hostile environment, but staying silent because of fear.

Time for a discussion: Masculinity should not be targeted as rapist. People of African descent have enough burdens simply because of the variation in one’s skin colour.

On the other hand, if as reported Jamaica ranked with Egypt and Morocco as of one of the most dangerous countries for women, selective amnesia by some postings on social media does not help victims.

This issue must be given that same importance not only when it threatens the hotel industry revenue.

Researching sexual assaults is critical. The violence must be recorded and tracked in the community not only for treatment, but also the victim’s safety.

Many predators are hard to detect because they can be some of the nicest and most well-groomed people, and this behaviour cannot be cured by a trip to a few Sunday sermons.

Sexual predators come in all forms: A perverted doctor who is more interested his patients’ underwear than the basic examination or a teacher, who engages and targets a young student’s vulnerability is just as dangerous as one who broke down a window for entry.

Men’s sexual violence is a wish to exert power over women, as feminist movements noted. However, these people need treatment and close monitoring to cut the danger they pose to society.

I consider myself one of the unofficial marketing managers who have recommended others to the region for vacation and, when they asked about safety, I was able to say, you will be in a gated area, but today the threats are also within.

When will be the next law enforcement operation to round up sexual predators because they are just a dangerous with their dysfunctional brain as any other high-powered weapon?

We are all affected when other people are hurting.

 IMAGE: Derrick Miller has over 16 years in law enforcement and public safety. His consulting and youth advocacy work includes; community safety, victims support, treatment, team building, personal development, and leadership. He holds a BS, MBA, and MS degree that covers economics, criminal justice, leadership, and management. He may be contacted at
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