Be­ware of wolves in sheep’s cloth­ing; they could be lurk­ing in the shad­ows of your fam­i­lies as sex­ual preda­tors

Fiji Sun - - Comment - NE­MANI DE­LAIBATIKI Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

We should all se­ri­ously think about the re­marks made by Lau­toka High Court judge, Jus­tice Thushara Ra­jas­inghe, when he sen­tenced to 15 years in prison a man for rap­ing and in­de­cently as­sault­ing his niece.

It was ob­vi­ous from the facts dis­closed in court that this man took ad­van­tage of the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of his young niece and sex­u­ally abused her. He be­trayed her trust. Jus­tice Ra­jas­inghe said the ac­cused had un­leashed dis­grace­ful ex­ploita­tions on the vic­tim when she was not in a po­si­tion to see any as­sis­tance or find a way to es­cape. The girl’s mother had died, her fa­ther had re­mar­ried and the step­mother had not treated her well. So she es­caped and sought refuge at the home of her un­cle, her fa­ther’s younger brother. Jus­tice Ra­jas­inghe is ab­so­lutely right when he says of­fend­ers must be dealt with severe and harsh pun­ish­ment. The num­ber of sex crimes in fam­i­lies ap­pears to be in­creas­ing at an alarm­ing rate. It’s a shame on all of us as a na­tion be­cause it in­di­cates a grad­ual moral de­cay in our so­ci­ety.

All right-think­ing cit­i­zens will con­demn this sex crime in fam­i­lies. When our own chil­dren are not safe in our own homes, some­thing is ter­ri­bly wrong. The lat­est cases that have come be­fore the court cor­rob­o­rate this trend. It is time we wake up and do some­thing about it.

The un­for­tu­nate as­pect of this is­sue is that the last per­sons we would sus­pect to be re­spon­si­ble are caught up in this sex crime. The other un­for­tu­nate episode is the im­pact of this crime on vic­tims. We don’t get to hear much dis­cus­sion about them be­cause their de­tails are sup­pressed for pri­vacy and pro­tec­tion rea­sons. There is a paucity of re­search ma­te­rial or data on the im­pact of sex crime in fam­i­lies on vic­tims in Fiji. So we are vir­tu­ally fly­ing in the dark when we talk about the mag­ni­tude of the prob­lem here.

While in­ter­na­tional re­search re­ports are avail­able on the sub­ject, there are pre­vail­ing cir­cum­stances pe­cu­liar to our na­tion, that are not taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. One is the cul­tural per­spec­tive and the as­so­ci­ated sen­si­tiv­i­ties that go with the sub­ject. While pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns have had some re­sults in open­ing the door for more pub­lic dis­course on the is­sue, they are not enough. There needs to be more done. Re­searches have re­vealed a myr­iad of harm­ful ef­fects ex­pe­ri­enced by vic­tims of sex­ual abuse. The im­pact on the in­di­vid­ual in­cludes psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional ef­fects such as: in­tense fear of death and dis­as­so­ci­a­tion dur­ing the as­sault; anx­i­ety and on­go­ing fears, feel­ings of low self-es­teem, self­blame, and guilt; shock, con­fu­sion, de­nial, self-harm and even sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies, and post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

Stud­ies have also re­vealed that the crime can dis­rupt and al­ter a vic­tim’s work-life, leisure ac­tiv­i­ties and com­mu­nity life. Fur­ther­more, the stud­ies say vic­tims can suf­fer “sec­ondary vic­tim­i­sa­tion” through their ex­pe­ri­ence of the re­sponse of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem and health ser­vice providers and neg­a­tive re­sponses from friends, fam­ily and the broader so­ci­ety.

An­other re­search finds sex­ual as­sault of an in­di­vid­ual does not oc­cur in a vac­uum. Re­search on the rip­ple ef­fects of sex­ual as­sault sug­gests that the ef­fects ex­tend well be­yond the pri­mary vic­tims. It high­lights the sig­nif­i­cance of sex­ual as­sault as a ma­jor so­cial is­sue, af­fect­ing many more peo­ple, than we orig­i­nally thought. When a child is sex­u­ally abused it scars the fam­ily and ex­tended rel­a­tives. In the fam­ily, we need to be more vig­i­lant and watch for tell-tale signs. We also need to pre­vent or avoid sit­u­a­tions where the safety of chil­dren can be com­pro­mised. We must watch out for those wolves in sheep’s cloth­ing ready to pounce on our in­no­cent and vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren as sex­ual preda­tors.

Life goes on and I know she will be look­ing down from heaven and proud of me and I want to thank her for ev­ery­thing.

Semi Ku­natani

Team Fiji Men’s 7s Player

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