THE prevalence of rape in Saint Lucia is a serious matter not only for the victims and their families but also key agencies charged with the duty of safeguarding citizens.
By March this year, police had already indicated that ten cases of rape had been reported. The fact that rape cases are among those that often go unreported would by now suggest that the actual number of females – and possibly males – raped thus far for the year might be shameful and regrettable as the crime itself.
Just this week, reports that two teenage girls were raped by a gang of men raised fears that our society might not be as civilized as we think it is. That men still feel the need to strip a woman of her dignity in order to satisfy their selfish motives proves that our society is still stuck in a dark place on some levels.
Just a few weeks ago, parents of young rape victims got somewhat of a reprieve when the man accused of raping their young daughters a few years ago finally got justice’s tolerance of him cut short. Despite him being sentenced, the trauma stemming from the vicious act still lingers with his victims.
But rape comes in many forms. And while much attention seems to be placed on those cases where a man forces himself onto his victim, the rapes that are never seen are those taking place right under our noses.
The issue of grown men having sexual relations with under-aged girls has been outstanding for too long. In many cases, schoolgirls especially are lured into illicit relationships with men who in turn return monetary and other gifts for “special favours”. It’s the prostitution that occurs that some parents even encourage.
These days, it has become the norm to see under-aged girls feting at seedy locations at any hour of the day or night. Quite often, they end up being victims to the wrong sets of eyes, many of whom befriend them and later rape them. Even the social services have a difficult task dissuading these youngsters away from that culture.
But more definitely needs to be done to protect our women and children from rape. There needs to be a very active approach to teaching people about rape prevention, counselling and self-defence measures to counter the rapists’ advances.
This approach needs to begin at the home level, through the schools and other organizations. The message must be clear, too: that rape is a serious scourge that needs to be combated and purged at all costs. Rape must not be reduced to lip service. Anything less would be giving the rapists the upper hand to continue eroding the dignity of our women and children.