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Stabroek News

Poverty, violence the main drivers of rape
published: Sunday | March 19, 2006

Avia Ustanny, Gleaner Writer

A rape scene dramatised. - Norman Grindley/ Deputy Chief Photographer

POVERTY ANd the high level of violence in Jamaica are taking its toll on women and girls; and those living in the parish of St. Catherine and the Corporate Area appear to be at a high risk of sexual abuse, including rape.

In this Metropolitan area, figures for rape and carnal abuse have been consistently highest in the last five years for St. Andrew South.

According to Women's Media Watch, there are signs that the rape of girls and women is perpetrated by men in order to take revenge, terrorise and dehumanise entire communities, and the families whose members are raped or killed. Women and children are raped (and killed) simply because they are easier targets than their relatives or boyfriends (You defile a man's 'property', in order to hurt him).

"There does seem to be a link between rapes and some gruesome murders, all part of the reprisal syndrome, to drive fear and terror into individuals," Hillary Nicholson of Women's Media Watch explained. "Gang rape and rape-as-terrorism unfortunately is used on women and young girls in these troubled communities as a form of revenge and also to render the occupants powerless. It sends a message to the people in the community about 'who run things."


Deputy Superintendent of Police Hyacinth Newman-Whiller of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) said data shows that the highest number of complaints of sexual assaults come from Hunts Bay, Three Miles, Majestic Gardens and other communities in St. Andrew South. However, she has seen no sign that any of this is connected to gang activity.

"Reprisal rapes do occur but they are not frequent," she said. "In these areas, it appears that men just want to be men. There are many break-ins, also, during which rape occurs. They also take girls away from their schools or if they see them on the road, take them away on their bicycles and do whatever they want with them and then let them go."

A search of the case files of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) revealed some gruesome examples.

On May 16, 2002, the Appeal Court affirmed the judgment by the lower court in the case of five men who were convicted of possession of illegal firearms and rape. The case involved two teenagers, sisters aged 15 and 16, who were sexually assaulted by 11 men.

The girls were sent by their father to a man they knew in Olympic Gardens. They saw him sitting on a wall with several other men and approached him with their father's message. The man offered to take them to Kentucky and asked them to wait by a taxi stand. This they had done for more than an hour, when suddenly the man returned. He dragged one of the sisters through a zinc fence into a yard. The other sister followed to see what was happening to her. The first girl was threatened with a gun and a ratchet knife, and was held while several men in the premises proceeded to force her to have oral sex.

The other sister was taken to an 'open land' and repeatedly sexually assaulted. Both sisters were taken back to the first dwelling where they were sexually assaulted again. This time around, the proceedings were videotaped. The court was told that the teenagers were forced to carry out "unnatural and perverse acts."

Following the ordeal, they were taken to a bus stop and left there. They took a bus to a friend's home. One week later the police took them to the rape centre.


Five of the perpetrators were found and prosecuted. One man was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment at hard labour on each count, each to run concurrently. Four other men were convicted and sentenced to 20 years each.

The story does not always end like this, as in many cases rape and gang rape are not even reported.

According to Faith Webster of the Bureau of Women's Affairs, the community sometimes even plays an active role in the coercion of the victim from seeking redress. In investigations by the Bureau, it was shown where there were instances of "payment of compensation to the victim's parents which result in pressure being placed on the child to change her story".

According to Ms. Webster, parents and communities both have been guilty of turning a blind eye to even young girls under the age of 16 cohabiting with older men.

Faith St. Catherine, counselling psychologist attached to the Women's Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) based in inner-city Kingston, states that "of the women counselled, more than 70 per cent have been raped. These are from Greenwich Park, Arnett Gardens, Lyndhurst, going down to Maxfield."

"They (the poor) live in tenement yards and so often they are so close to everybody. This creates more opportunities for rape to occur," said Ms St. Catherine. "While parents are gone to work, children are left alone at home in situations where there are a lot of men around," explained Ms. St. Catherine .

In addition, she said girls sometimes can't go to school because the parents have no money to pay the bus fare. And because they are so disadvantaged they are more likely to follow somebody who will give them a meal. "The child of the affluent cannot be bribed with a patty. But a hungry child, who does not have clothes, shoes or food, will follow someone who offers them these things," noted Miss. St. Catherine


Her assertions are supported by the case of six-year-old Shaneka Brown who was with her mother in Coronation Market on May 1, 2005 when she was lured away by a lone man who promised to buy her patties. Citizens later discovered her body in a school compound nearby lying on her back with vaginal wounds and other injuries to her upper back and head. She was taken to the Kingston Public Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

"The increasing poverty of girls and young women increases their vulnerability to rape. Rape is a crime affecting mainly poor women in Jamaica," gender expert, Dr. Glenda Simms said.

Dr. Simms explained that due to the inability to provide themselves with essential goods and services, many girls and women fall prey to men who force them to engage in sexual activities against their will.

Poverty is highest in rural areas, averaging 19.5 per cent, nearly 3 points above the national average. The female unemployment rate is more than twice that of the male. In 2004, it is reported that females represented 73 per cent of unpaid workers and the unemployment rate among females was 16.4 per cent, as compared to 7.9 per cent for males.

In her 2000 report on child labour in Jamaica (Child Prostitution in Jamaica: ILO Rapid Assessment, November 2000), Dr. Leith Dunn reported that many children under age 16 have been forced into relationships with older men as a means of increasing income to their families. These older men provide the child with food, clothing and money to attend school and some of the benefits fall into the hands of their parents, who are accessories.

The above article is part of a discussion paper entitled "Against Her Will: A situational analysis of rape in Jamaica," produced by the Panos Institute Caribbean.

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