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Take a stand against sexual violence - Lindsay

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMOrantes Moore
Lindsay

PORT MARIA, St Mary:

St Mary's police chief has urged local residents to take a stand against sexual violence and the abuse of children. She fears that if her warnings are ignored, paedophilia could become endemic in the parish.

Speaking from her office at Port Maria Police Station, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay noted that 33 allegations of rape had been made so far in 2015, with 24 reports of sexual assaults on girls under the age of 16 years old in the first two months of the year alone.

She told Rural Xpress: "One of our big concerns in St Mary is the issue of sexual offences, because many of them are committed by people within the family or community.

"There is almost a level of acceptance as if it's not really a serious matter, to the extent where mothers are aware their children are being molested, but will turn a blind eye and not report it to the police.

"On many occasions, sexual abuse is brought to our attention through the school system because our 'safe school' programme is very vibrant. But oftentimes, parents and caregivers encourage the children to lie or change their stories and a compromise is made before the matter gets to court.

"We believe a lot of it comes down to ignorance, so our Community Safety and Security and Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse teams have started going into the schools to speak with children and staff.

"In doing so, we found that people were coming in and reporting rapes that happened years before. That caused a spike in our figures, which suggests people are making more reports because they have greater confidence in the police."

Similarly, Lindsay plans to launch a campaign to help reduce the number of family-related and intercommunity murders and violent assaults, which she claims take place with an alarming frequency.

She explained: "So far this year, there have been 26 aggravated assaults and 19 murders, 50 per cent of which are as a result of domestic violence.

"In St Mary, you'll find that people see incidents where firearms are used as something to be concerned about, but in the same community on another day, if two people are chopped to death, you may not get the same response.

"There will be more and people will justify the incident by saying: 'St Mary people are machete and knife people; that's what we represent.' It's as if it is embedded in the culture that stabbings and machete wounding are acceptable, which is very sad."

In an effort to counter these problems, Lindsay has implemented a Proactive Violence Interruption Strategy and furnished every police station in the parish with a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer to tackle individual threats and incidents of violence.

She said: "The increase in the number of people reporting these crimes is an indication that people are now becoming more aware and recognising they can do something by coming forward and cooperating.

"It's still a work in progress and I believe our police officers have a lot to deal with and are often placed in very difficult situations. But overall, I am very happy with the enthusiasm and resilience they have shown in the face of adversity."

rural@gleanerjm.com