BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – IN the Caribbean, rape and sexual assault incidents are currently at an astronomical level and the perpetrators, when caught and proven guilty, should face full brunt of the law.
Only recently the Observer had reported that a 94-year-old amputee was raped in St. Ann, Jamaica, while in St. Kitts, there have been reports of several sexual assault incidents in Basseterre and the rape, buggery and robbery of a woman in Newton Ground.
This topic is vast and the writer has chosen to only focus on St. Kitts and Nevis in an attempt to highlight some of the effects of sexual assault and rape against the fairer sex and what should be done to the perpetrators.
Types of Rape
According to Dictionary.com, rape is “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim”.
There are various types of rape and among them are Acquaintance Rape, Spousal Rape, Gang Rape, Custodial Rape, Child Rape, Diminished Capacity Rape and Statutory Rape.
Acquaintance Rape occurs between two individuals who know each other; usually they are just friends with no intimate connection. It also occurs between couples who are dating and might have had consensual sex in the past. Further, this type of rape occurs between family members, friends, co-workers and schoolmates, et cetera.
Spousal Rape, which is also known as marital rape and intimate partner sexual assault, is rape between a married couple or a couple living together (common law) without one spouse’s consent. This is widely considered as domestic violence and sexual abuse.
Gang Rape occurs when a group of people participate in the raping of a single victim.
Custodial Rape is rape perpetrated by an individual employed by the State in a supervisory or custodial position, such as a prison warder, police officer or a civil servant. This form of rape is also being perpetrated by hospital employees and on children under institutional care such as orphanages.
Child Rape is classified as a form of child sexual abuse. When committed by another child, who is stronger, or an adolescent, it is classified as child-on-child sexual abuse.
Diminished Capacity Rape is rape committed when an individual forces sexual penetration on another individual who cannot consent to the sexual act due to limited physical or intellectual ability. This form of rape also occurs when the victim is highly intoxicated.
Statutory Rape is non-forced sexual relation between an adult and an individual who is not legally old enough to consent to the act.
Causes for Concern
In most countries, including St. Kitts and Nevis, the age of consent is 16 years. But what bothers this writer is that most 16-year-olds are still at school as fifth formers or they are either preparing to write CXC or have already written it and awaiting results. Yet at age 16 one can be classified as a consenting adult but cannot cast one’s ballot during an election until the age of 18.
Some 10 years ago, a 15-year-old mother of a two-year-old child had visited this writer’s office and, with tears streaming down her cheeks, narrated a very sad and painful episode in her life.
She claimed that on one occasion her elder sister requested that she follow her to meet her boyfriend. At the meeting place, the sister’s boyfriend was in the company of another male.
While the older girl and her boyfriend were engaged in a sexual act, the other male, who was said to be in his early 20s, started making sexual advances to the sister who vehemently objected.
She however acceded upon her sister’s intervention, who reminded her their state of poverty and that she would be handsomely paid.
Two things occurred there; the loss of her virginity and the bearing of a child.
In 2012, within a certain community in St. Kitts, this writer had observed a woman seated under a mango tree while her 14-year-old daughter was having sex for money with a man over 40 years old.
A few months later, she was seen in her school uniform with a bloated belly.
Just a few years ago, it was bandied on the streets of Basseterre that the son of a wealthy Kittitian had allegedly drugged one of his schoolmates and sexually assaulted her. It was said in some quarters that because of his father’s influence, “matter was swept under the carpet”.
The first and second incidents are clearly Statutory Rape, while the third one can be classified as Diminished Capacity Rape due to the use of drugs.
In the Federation, statistics have shown that between 2004 and 2018, there have been 505 reported incidents of Rape and Indecent Assault – 40 in 2004, 35 in 2005, 30 in 2006, 31 in 2007, 41 in 2008,33 in 2009, 39 in 2010, 46 in 2011, 37 in 2012, 32 in 2013, 32 in 2014, 23 in 2015, 27 in 2016, 37 in 2017 and 22 in 2018.
And during the same period there were 259 reported incidents of Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, while there were 29 reported incidents of Other Offences of a Sexual Nature, including Incest.
Effects of Rape & Sexual Assault
According to an article published by the Joyful Heart Foundation, in the aftermath of a sexual assault or rape, survivors could face extremely difficult and painful emotions and experiences.
The Foundation noted that every survivor responds to traumatic events in their own way, and the effects could either be short-term or last long after the sexual assault or rape.
Listed below are some common physical effects of Sexual Assault and Rape:
• Bleeding (vaginal or anal);
• Difficulty walking;
• Broken or dislocated bones;
• Sexually transmitted infections and diseases; and
It also noted that among the common mental effects are:
• Post-traumatic stress disorder, including flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts;
• Depression, including prolonged sadness, feelings of hopelessness, unexplained crying, weight loss or gain, loss of energy or interest in activities previously enjoyed;
• Suicidal thoughts or attempts; and
• Dissociation, including not being able to focus on work or on schoolwork, as well as not feeling present in everyday situations.
The Joyful Heart Foundation further noted that some emotional effects are:
• Changes in trusting others;
• Anger and blame;
• Loss of control;
• Sense of vulnerability;
• Self-blame/guilt for “allowing” the crime to happen; and
• Feeling that these reactions are a sign of weakness.
With the high rate and prevalence of rape and sexual assault being perpetrated against women, it is incumbent on the Government to revisit the laws with a view of increasing the penalties for sex crimes.
Though they may seem draconian in nature, this writer would like to make the following recommendations should the perpetrators be found guilty:
• For Acquaintance Rape, the perpetrator should be imprisoned for no less than 10 years;
• The same sentence should be meted out for Spousal Rape;
• For Gang Rape, the perpetrators should be imprisoned for 35 years and only eligible for parole after 30 years;
• For Custodial Rape, the perpetrator should be sentenced to serve 25 years and eligibility for parole after 20 years. Should this type of rape be perpetrated on a child under institutional care, 35 years without parole;
• In the case of Child Rape, 50 years without parole;
• For Diminished Capacity Rape, 30 years without parole; and
• In the case of Statutory Rape, the perpetrator should be sentenced to serve 40 years in prison without parole. And should it be known that parents or guardian were privy to the relationship and had received financial rewards for their silence, they too should be imprisoned, but to serve no less than 10 years.
Conclusively, we are not living in the prehistoric period. This is the 21st Century and we are governed by laws to which each and every one should adhere.
Rape and Sexual Assault are heinous crimes and, therefore, heavy jail sentences should be meted out to all rapists.