Tue | Jul 16, 2019

‘Shame child predators’ - Victim support exec urges Jamaicans to stop excusing sexual abuse by dirty old men

Published:Tuesday | June 25, 2019 | 12:21 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Joy Crawford, executive director of Eve For Life.
Joy Crawford, executive director of Eve For Life.

Jamaicans should stop glorifying and start naming and shaming “dirty old men” and “cradle robbers” – adult males who sexually prey on underage girls – Joy Crawford, executive director of Eve For Life, has urged.

A panellist at the Female Development World Organisation’s 2nd Biennial Protect the Children Symposium at the University of Technology’s Papine campus in St Andrew recently, she decried the fact that underage high-school girls glamorise their sexual relationships with far older men.

Crawford revealed to the audience that she lost her virginity at seven years old and that this somewhat triggered in her a preference for older men. As a young girl, Crawford said, she would scoff at the idea of dating a boy her age. It wasn’t until she hit about age 40 that she began to acknowledge her unfortunate childhood experience as rape.

“That only happened because I was talking to a group of adult friends about growing up as a young girl and feeling very powerful that we don’t date schoolboys. It was in that conversation that somebody said, ‘Do you realise that all the men that you’ve been involved with are abusers and predators?’ I had never named it as that before,” Crawford said.

She continued: “If a girl at age 13 or 14 feels good about being involved with a 30- or 40-year-old man, something has happened to her mind for her to not even realise, acknowledge or name it, then we are in trouble. Sexual abuse leaves a lifetime scar.”

Crawford stressed that the nation’s children would not be safe from predators until perceptions are altered. She insisted that instead of glamorising child abusers as ‘bups’ or ‘dons’, they should be styled as paedophiles.

Crawford said that as head of Eve For Life, an NGO providing support to survivors of sexual abuse, and women and children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, she has seen more than enough to cause concern.

“I don’t think we have ever prosecuted anybody in Jamaica and used the word paedophile. We need to change the narrative around this issue. There are a group of girls aged 14, 15 and 16, who I work with on a regular basis in the schools, who talk about being involved in certain sexual behaviours, and it is almost like they received stripes. I think we have more of this than we have of those who end up being killed unfortunately, or who we see on the news having committed suicide,” she said.

Yesterday, retired cultural studies professor at The University of the West Indies, Carolyn Cooper, said paedophiles are driven by an “illness” to exploit children, some of whom are given tokens to keep silent.

“We have to get rid of these predators, but it is not easy because it is a question of supply and demand. As long as you have young girls and boys willing to be abused and used, you will continue to have people using and abusing them,” she told The Gleaner.

Cooper pointed out that some mothers are still turning a blind eye to their children’s sexual relationships with ‘big’ men for economic gain.

“That may be why there is not that much of a conversation about that form of abuse. It is kept under wraps. Sometimes it is what the young girls think the man can give them. It is the same thing with some of the boys and the male homosexuals who prey on them. They may not have any basic interest in homosexuality, but if they can use their body to get whatever it is a man can give, many young men and females are willing to do it,” she said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com