Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Devon Dick | Rape and reputation

Published:Thursday | March 23, 2017 | 3:00 AM

On Sunday, before the nine a.m. worship service, a congregant of the Boulevard Baptist Church told me that a very close family member of his was recently raped. It is causing unimaginable pain for the victim, an academically gifted child.

Can anyone imagine the trauma, pain and hurt when raped? This man has friends in the police force but those dealing with the case seem to be most unhelpful.

After church, the midday newscast related that in Australia, the Anglican Church has uncovered 1,000 complaints about child sex abuse between 1980 and 2015 involving 22 of the 23 dioceses. Significantly, the main reason for indecisive action was to save the reputation of the church. Obviously, reputation is overrated.

As I understand it, the arrest of Latoya Nugent was based on the allegation of her damaging the reputation of persons named as sexual predators. My understanding is that she has named persons as sexual predators based on the testimony of others. It was shocking to learn that libel is now a criminal offence. We should go back to the system of libel being a civil matter where the one whose reputation has been damaged is allowed to take the case to court.

The argument for naming and shaming persons who are alleged to be rapists is that the justice system is very slow, and victims feel it necessary to name and shame predators to save others and provide some healing to victims.

I have two friends who were charged with sexual abuse of minors separately. I did not believe the charges because I knew them very well and that was just out of character for the individuals. The cases went to court and they were freed. Their experiences were worse than having their names posted as sexual predators. People feel that once such a case goes to court, if it 'nuh go soh it near go soh'. It costs them a pretty penny to retain lawyers.

 

BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT

 

Furthermore, one person lost his job. These persons cannot sue anyone for libel. The State should pay the legal fees for these persons who won the cases and it should be against the law for such persons, having been declared innocent, to lose their jobs. In fact, if they were working and got suspended, they need to be paid their full salary.

I have another friend who is a minister of religion and who was sexually abused as a minor by a pastor, and although he is now middle-aged, he is a mess. It appears as if he has still not recovered 30 years later. The point is that my friends who had their reputations savaged for a while have recovered, but a sex assault victim seems to be scarred deeper and for longer. Therefore, give the benefit of the doubt to the alleged victims of rape.

In addition, the quality of a reputation is reflected in it being able to withstand unreasonable assaults. Jesus was called Beelzebub - a prince of demons (Luke 11:15), but he survived. Some people consider Jesus a fraud but nevertheless no gate of hell has prevailed.

A prominent politician, during the last general election, spoke of grave allegations against him. He named the charges and dealt with them, and he is now a cabinet minister.

All of us have suffered damaging false allegations to our reputations and most have survived. However, after abuse and rape, it is living hell for victims.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com.