Women break rape silence - CISOCA get reports of 18 cases more than five years old
Seemingly emboldened by the recent arrest of some high-profile Jamaicans and the public support for victims of sexual abuse, more and more women are going to the police to report their cases.
The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) says women are now coming forward to report incidents that they have kept buried for years.
"Having now been informed about sexual abuse, some of them, just for the reprieve or just to get it off their chest, are now coming forward," Claudette Hepburn, detective inspector at CISOCA, told The Sunday Gleaner last week.
According to Hepburn, investigators are probing at least 18 recently reported cases about incidents that occurred more than five years ago.
Hepburn said one of the incidents now being investigated reportedly occurred in 1991.
There is no limit on the time a woman has to report an incident of rape to the police.
But even as the victims muster the courage to come forward - in some cases rehashing the dreadful memories in tears, confessions and having to undergo intrusive medical examinations - the police say they continue to face a challenge with victims who have sympathy for their abusers.
"Even though some of them report, they will say 'I don't want him to go to jail'. Some of them say they just want to warn the attacker. But we have to tell them that's not the way it works," said Hepburn.
"We cannot make that decision. Where a crime is committed, it has to go before the parish court for the judge to make that decision. Not us," continued Hepburn, as she noted that despite the elapsed time, victims are still asked to undergo physical examinations as part of the probe.
"Even though you are not going to find semen or anything to match DNA, females still can come in and make allegations ... so the doctors will still do their medical checks," added Hepburn.
She noted that these medical tests are usually done by female practitioners, and that victims are allowed to decline to do the tests in some cases.
Some senior members of the Moravian Church have become embroiled in a sex scandal in recent weeks, with three of its leading clergymen facing sexual abuse charges.
Many of the incidents occurred years ago. As the victims took their stories to social media or professionals, it was revealed that many were teenagers allegedly exploited by individuals they trusted.
One of the victims, in an email, recounted her ordeal which she said started while she was just 14 years old.
Social commentator and chairperson of the 'I'm Glad I'm a Girl Foundation', Nadeen Spence, who has been working with some sexually abused victims, said it is extremely difficult for these women to report the incidents to the cops, especially after years of hiding them from their loved ones.
"There is a lot of victim-blaming around rape. There is a lot of saying that it is the girl's fault or the woman's fault, and if you are a child when it happened and the people around you don't take the steps to get you justice, then you feel undone," said Spence.
"It's hard, it's life-shattering, it's invasive. I know a young woman who just reported and she still had to go and be subjected to having her vagina and anus examined in the company of two other people," added Spence.
She noted that the incident allegedly occurred when the victim was 15 years old. She is now 27.