STAR PER­SON of the YEAR 2014!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Rick Wayne

In

sim­ply beau­ti­ful Saint Lu­cia it would seem the only thing cheaper than sex is life. Mary Rack­liffe, Giselle Ge­orges, Tr­isha Den­nis, Va­lerie Lorde, Ver­linda Joseph, Ch­eryl Hunte and sev­eral other daugh­ters of this fine soil might read­ily have tes­ti­fied to that no­tion, if only they could. Alas, a long time ago they were in­terred with their sad his­tory— and for­got­ten.

Shortly be­fore Christ­mas one of our mul­ti­tudi­nous TV sta­tions fea­tured at prime time an in­ter­view with an 80-year-old woman who had been sex­u­ally at­tacked as she slept in her bed at her ex­tremely mod­est home. While the re­porter fired at her his pre­dictably inane ques­tions, his col­league lin­ger­ingly swept his video­cam over the uniden­ti­fied old woman’s skin-and-bone hands, her crossed an­kles and other parts of her clothed anatomy. Such queries as she was un­able to an­swer were put to a trau­ma­tized young fe­male rel­a­tive who lived next door.

She had bumped into the per­pe­tra­tor as she rushed to in­ves­ti­gate the old woman’s fee­ble cries for help, she told the re­porter. He was about her own age, 19 or so by the look of her. She would have no trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing him if she saw him again. To date there has been no re­lated ar­rest; at any rate, none con­firmed by the po­lice.

Still, the oc­to­ge­nar­ian vic­tim had sur­vived her un­speak­able or­deal, if only phys­i­cally. Thir­teen-year-old Ver­linda Joseph was not quite so lucky. Sev­eral years ear­lier her rav­aged half-naked body was dis­cov­ered in a muddy area not far from her par­ents’ home in Saltibus. Foren­sics per­son­nel later an­nounced the young girl had not only been bru­tally bat­tered and raped on her way to school but that she had also been forced to swal­low a killer weed­i­cide.

More than a decade later the mat­ter that ap­peared to have shaken this na­tion to its hyp­o­crit­i­cal core re­mains un­re­solved. The only sus­pect, Ver­linda’s step­fa­ther, was taken into po­lice cus­tody some six months after the in­ci­dent. For close to twelve years he re­mained on cus­to­dial re­mand at Borde­lais,

un­til an uniden­ti­fied char­ity or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Canada put up the money for his bail. An an­nounced trial date set upon his re­lease has come and gone with­out fur­ther of­fi­cial com­ment.

Then there was Mary Rack­liffe. In 1989 the mother of four had re­ported at Port Po­lice Sta­tion the rape of her 10-yearold daugh­ter, de­spite that her live-in lover had threat­ened to kill Rack­liffe if she in­formed on him.

Shortly after she re­turned home that re­mem­bered Satur­day evening, Mary’s boyfriend kept his prom­ise: in the pres­ence of her young chil­dren, he cut off her head with his cut­lass. He was never ar­rested and re­mains at large. (It would emerge that a fe­male po­lice of­fi­cer as­signed to ac­com­pany Rack­liffe home and to keep her safe from her boyfriend had dis­cov­ered she had more press­ing week­end chores to at­tend to.)

Does any­thing in the pre­ced­ing para­graphs sug­gest a ho-hum at­ti­tude to rape in this avowed Christian so­ci­ety of ours? Un­til quite re­cently, even our ca­lypso com­posers tended to blame the vic­tims of this un­speak­able crime (their skimpy at­tire made them ir­re­sistible to preda­tory males), never the per­pe­tra­tors.

As for our politi­cians, while from time to time they may be heard talk­ing the talk on prae­dial lar­ceny, gun vi­o­lence against tourists and utopian jobs for all, sel­dom have they seen the need to com­ment pub­licly on what many be­lieve is Saint Lu­cia’s most of­ten com­mit­ted crime— alas, grossly un­der­re­ported.

Not even the all-too-common im­preg­na­tion of chil­dren un­der twelve years by their os­ten­si­ble pro­tec­tors has been enough to pro­voke a pub­lic re­ac­tion from our pre­dom­i­nantly male par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. Our laws de­mand that par­ents, lo­cal hos­pi­tals and care­givers no­tify the po­lice of preg­nan­cies in­volv­ing girls less than 16 years old. If there has been reg­u­lar com­pli­ance, then that must be the na­tion’s best kept se­cret, sec­ond only to Gryn­berg!

The po­lice are quick to un­der­score the ob­vi­ous: there is lit­tle they can do about un­re­ported rapes—as if in­deed the re­ported cases had all been sat­is­fac­to­rily re­solved. Of course it is not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the re­luc­tance to in­volve the po­lice. Cer­tainly it does not help that in Saint Lu­cia the wheels of jus­tice grind so ex­ceed­ingly slow as to ap­pear static: nearly half of the Borde­lais pop­u­la­tion have not had their con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed day in court.

More of­ten than not com­plainants choose to aban­don rape cases be­fore trial, for var­i­ous rea­sons, all of them at the ex­pense of the vic­tims and jus­tice. Re­mark­ably, the po­lice sel­dom men­tion rape in their an­nual crime re­ports. The pre­vail­ing prac­tice is to lump rape with other un­spec­i­fied “sex­ual of­fences”—of which there were 385 in 2013.

It turns out rape is also “widely un­der­re­ported” in many other coun­tries, for in­stance the re­source­ful United States, where a study by the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil un­cov­ered “ma­jor in­con­sis­ten­cies in na­tional data.”

Its fo­cal point was the Na­tional Crime Vic­tim­iza­tion Survey—an an­nual crime re­port con­ducted through house­hold sur­veys by the U.S. Cen­sus for the Bureau of Jus­tice Statis­tics—“which counted 188,380 vic­tims of rape and sex­ual of­fenses in 2010.”

Another data source, the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion’s Na­tional In­ti­mate Part­ner and Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Survey, counted 1.3 mil­lion in­ci­dents that same year. Data from the FBI, which gath­ers its statis­tics on rape or at­tempted rape re­ported as a crime by lo­cal law en­force­ment, counted only 85,593 in 2010.”

Sev­eral weeks ago, with five-year-old per­sis­tent ru­mors of a se­rial rapist still vi­ciously ac­tive in the is­land’s north, I set out to in­ter­view fe­male work­ers at a dozen or so Rod­ney Bay es­tab­lish­ments on the prob­lem.

All ac­knowl­edged their in­tense fear of at­tack, es­pe­cially those res­i­dent in the tar­geted area. Some were grate­ful for trans­porta­tion pro­vided them at the end of their evening shifts, although that didn’t mean all were dropped off at their doorsteps. In any event, I per­sisted: What would they do if, God for­bid, they were raped?

Not one of the 30 or so I talked with over a two-week pe­riod said they would turn to the po­lice. Three or four said they would likely visit a hos­pi­tal but only if their at­tack­ers had cho­sen to abuse them with their lances un­sheathed. They would say noth­ing about the rapes, how­ever.

When I in­quired about their re­luc­tance, the common re­sponse was: “This is Saint Lu­cia. What would be the point to re­port­ing a rape? To suf­fer more pub­lic abuse and em­bar­rass­ment?”

I knew pre­cisely what they meant to get across to me. A 24-year-old mother of two who waited ta­bles at a popular Rod­ney Bay Ma­rina eatery told me: “It’s no easy mat­ter go­ing home to your boyfriend or your young chil­dren after you’ve been am­bushed and raped at a road­side and hav­ing to pre­tend you had a nor­mal work­ing day. But to do oth­er­wise is to risk your man walk­ing out on you, if you have a man. As for the chil­dren, how do you ex­plain to them that their mother was pulled into a road­side bush and treated worse than any hu­man be­ing de­serves to be treated? Bet­ter to keep your mouth shut, weep your­self to sleep and try to for­get about what hap­pened to you—and could eas­ily hap­pen again. You keep your se­cret even from other rape vic­tims!”

Small won­der that for Saint Lu­cia’s rapists it’s al­ways been open sea­son. In early De­cem­ber TV re­porters cor­nered the na­tion’s health min­is­ter as she emerged from par­lia­ment and ques­tioned her on the lat­est sex­ual at­tack on a woman.

Among the min­is­ter’s stun­ning re­sponses: “Moth­ers will have to start teach­ing their young sons to have re­spect for women, chil­dren and an­i­mals. The po­lice can’t be ex­pected to be ev­ery­where.”

By which I un­der­stood her to say that un­til young boys have learned from their mostly sin­gle moth­ers to be­have like gen­tle­men to­ward women, chil­dren and an­i­mals the na­tion will sim­ply have to grin and bear the rape plague.

More re­cently, in the af­ter­math of another rape, another fe­male MP of­fered fear­ful fe­males in her con­stituency the fol­low­ing words of com­fort: “Gros Islet is a large com­mu­nity. Lots of peo­ple are all over the place. There are mad peo­ple walk­ing around, so peo­ple have to be vig­i­lant.”

It has been a long time since a male MP is­sued from the floor of par­lia­ment (bet­ter to ig­nore their rum-shop pro­nounce­ments) a con­dem­na­tory state­ment on the scourge of rape. Nei­ther has there been a mem­o­rable pub­lic pro­nounce­ment on the de­plorable fact that of the minis­cule num­ber of rapes an­nu­ally re­ported to the po­lice only a tiny per­cent­age ever reach the courts.

In all events, the majority are aban­doned by the staterep­re­sented com­plainants soon after the first half hour of cros­sex­am­i­na­tion by high-priced de­fense lawyers well known for their own boozy misog­y­nis­tic ex­ha­la­tions.

In­deed, the last time rape was men­tioned in the par­lia­ment of Saint Lu­cia was dur­ing the de­ba­cle that pre­ceded the pass­ing of the so-called abor­tion bill back in 2003—and only in the fol­low­ing con­text, con­trib­uted by

Looks can be so de­ceiv­ing. Who’d have guessed this was

among Saint Lu­cia’s most dan­ger­ous places, less than

two miles from Castries!

the then tourism min­is­ter:

“Let us say your daugh­ter aged three or eleven or twelve is with your per­mis­sion spend­ing a week­end with her un­cle. While she is asleep at one in the morn­ing, the bas­tard en­ters her room and rapes her. Yes,” he em­pha­sized, ac­cu­mu­lated froth at the cor­ners of his mouth, “he rapes her.

“It hap­pens very, very of­ten in Saint Lu­cia. What do you have on your hands? An in­no­cent child raped.

“She gets up, cry­ing. The blood from her rape by this drunken bas­tard is all over her. Blood on her clothes. Blood on the bed. Blood ev­ery­where. A hu­man dog is re­spon­si­ble.

“Worse, you dis­cover later your lit­tle girl is preg­nant. I put it to those now parad­ing on the al­tar of con­ve­nient moral­ity: Would you force your child to carry a rapist’s baby!”

Judg­ing by the im­me­di­ately above, lo­cal MPs get worked up over rape only when their pre­cious lit­tle vir­gin princesses have been rav­aged by the fam­ily’s “hu­man dogs.” (Quite re­cently, not­with­stand­ing our hor­ror cir­cum­stances, our ap­peal court sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the sen­tences of two con­victed rapists!)

I re­turn now to the in­ci­dent that early last De­cem­ber had moved Alv­ina Reynolds to lay the blame for the es­ca­lat­ing rape fig­ures on the moth­ers of the per­pe­tra­tors, with­out even a pass­ing ref­er­ence to the po­lice or the pre­vail­ing Saint Lu­cian at­ti­tude to vic­tims of rape.

Some twenty days be­fore Christ­mas, a young woman and her boyfriend were en­joy­ing the nor­mally serene am­bi­ence of popular Choc Beach when they en­coun­tered the mother of all nightmares: two masked hye­nas that pounced on the cou­ple then pro­ceeded at gun­point to rape the woman while her help­less part­ner was forced to watch. Af­ter­ward their as­sailants warned that if they no­ti­fied the au­thor­i­ties they would both be killed.

I can­not tell at this time whether they went to the po­lice. Cer­tainly there have been no re­ports of a re­lated ar­rest. But all of Saint Lu­cia and count­less oth­ers via the lo­cal me­dia and the in­ter­net heard the weep­ing woman as she re­lated de­tails of her shock­ing Choc Beach night­mare to a news re­porter.

It has been a very long time since Saint Lu­cians were ex­posed to com­pa­ra­ble courage. And although the name of the vic­tim­ized woman must re­main clas­si­fied, still we can think of no one more de­serv­ing of this year’s STAR Per­son of the Year ac­co­lade!

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