Sun | Sep 23, 2018

George Davis | Taking rape seriously

Published:Monday | September 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM

The autopsy on the body of Yetanya Francis confirmed what had been reported in the hours after her burnt body was discovered in Arnett Gardens - that she had been raped and stabbed before her body was set ablaze. Was it one devil? Or was it two or three that attacked this teenager? As of this moment, the police don't know.

That fact is troubling, given the strong communal ties in places like Arnett Gardens, where everybody knows everybody and, indeed, where nobody's business or deeds is really a secret.

Arnett Gardens is not like Barbican or Liguanea, where people live on top of and beside each other in town houses for decades without even knowing the last name of the man or woman in the unit next door.

The phrase 'it takes a village to raise a child' was never intended for any of the posh or quasi-posh areas in Jamaica. For if that were the case, those children would mature into selfish, inward-looking adults who believe it a virtue to withhold as simple a thing as 'good morning', 'good evening' or even a 'how are you?' to the woman watering the plants at the front of the town house beside them.

That is a weakness of those communities that reflects as a strength in communities such as Arnett Gardens. In 'Concrete Jungle', everyone knows where their neighbour works and the times when they are not at home, giving life to the concept that we are our brother's keeper. And yet this knowledge of everyone and their movements is not helping the police identify the killer or killers of Yetanya Francis.

In this way, the communal spirit that is such a positive, defining characteristic of a community like Arnett Gardens is laid waste, made immaterial by the fear confronting persons who fret that they may be set upon by the vermin that took Yetanya's life even before the last breath left her body.

Understandably, we are preoccupied with the high annual homicide numbers that continue to make life tough in this country. But somehow, except for victims and their families, we tend to pay scant attention to the high incidence of rape and carnal abuse recorded each year. Indeed, many persons, journalists especially, rarely, if ever, make any serious comment on the rape and carnal abuse numbers published periodically by the police. Instead, we are fixated on the murders.

 

RAPE/CARNAL ABUSE DATA IN JAMAICA

 

A review of data published by the Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica between 1970 and 2012 and captured expertly in a journal article, 'Homicide, Rape and Carnal Abuse in Jamaica: The New Pandemics' by Bourne, et al, show that whereas the country first broke the 1,000 mark for murders in 1997, rape and carnal abuse numbers were running rampant long before. In 1987, the country recorded 1,007 cases of rape and carnal abuse, at a rate of 42.8 per 100,000 of the population.

Indeed, in the 43 years from 1970 to 2012, the number of cases of rape and carnal abuse exceeded the annual homicide numbers on 31 occasions. The difference between the two categories is perhaps even greater, given that there was no data for comparison published in four years - 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1985 - where the trend analysis shows that rape/carnal abuse would have exceeded annual homicide numbers in those years.

Over the review period, the number of rape/carnal abuse cases peaked at 1,797 in 1996 (there were 925 murders that year), at an astonishing incidence of 71.4 per 100,000 of the population. Accordingly, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published a report in 2014 listing Jamaica among the top five countries in the world where the incidence of rape is concerned.

The point being made by the numbers is that Jamaica has always had a serious problem with rape and carnal abuse without the nation seeing it as a big issue.

And because of our attitude to rape and carnal abuse, the horrors visited upon persons like Yetanya Francis, not including those who've survived the ordeal, are tragically not enough to cause a community like Arnett Gardens to spit out the devils who took the 14-year-old girl from this world.

In the same way a community raises a child and nurtures it, sometimes a community can kill a child.

Selah.

- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.