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Sexual Assaults account for 12 per cent of all hospital emergency visits

Published:Friday | May 22, 2015 | 5:00 AMTyrone Thompson

The island's public hospitals continue to be flooded with cases of sexual assault, with the majority of the cases affecting females below the age of 19 years.

According to the 2014 Economic and Social Survey Jamaica (ESSJ), 12.4 per cent of the 44,456 visits reported to accident and emergency departments across the island were as a result of sexual assault. The 1,069 cases represented a marginal decline from the 1,225 for the previous year.

The largest single group of persons who were seen at the public hospital's emergency rooms was girls aged 10-19 years, who accounted for 649 cases. Eighty-seven girls aged 5-9 years reported for emergency care in that same year because they had been sexually assaulted, and 42 girls below the age of five years also sought emergency care for the same problem.

Young boys were not spared by sexual predators either, as 46 of them below age 19 also sought emergency care after being sexually assaulted.

Eve for Life Executive Director Patricia Watson told The Gleaner that the figures presented in the ESSJ were similar to what her charity group had seen while working with women infected with HIV.

"This is one of the reasons we started our Nuh Go Deh campaign, because a large number of the young women who we see infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are victims of sexual violence," said Watson.

Watson said in many cases, the economic and social costs of the high number of sexual assaults against young children go well beyond the costs of emergency care.

"The number of young women we are seeing getting raped and then getting an STI or getting pregnant is really alarming because these are babies, and the statistics will show that once the girl gets pregnant or [gets] HIV, her chances of dropping out of school go up. If there is no intervention, the chances are that she will have another child in two years, chances are she will not get employment, and by the time she is in her 20s, she will have more than three children. So the sexual assault is just the beginning of a horrible cycle for many of these girls," argued Watson.

tyrone.thompson@gleanerjm.com