Born and Bred “In Our Midst”

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Clau­dia Elei­box

It is often said that one can­not un­der­stand the dif­fi­culty of a sit­u­a­tion un­less one has ex­pe­ri­enced it first-hand. When one does have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence a difficult sit­u­a­tion, one acts dif­fer­ently, some­times for the bet­ter, some­times not.

Imag­ine some­thing you cher­ish was stolen from you, or your sis­ter was shot in her leg by a stranger. Your im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion would be to call the po­lice and you would ex­pect the courts to solve it some­how. That or you would try to take matters into your own hands, which would more than likely result in an­other crime.

A sit­u­a­tion in­volv­ing some form of vi­o­la­tion or in­jus­tice would likely trig­ger a num­ber of emo­tions in the vic­tim, their friends and fam­ily: anger, guilt, shame or the need for vengeance, or jus­tice. Sit­u­a­tions like those em­power peo­ple to fight against some­thing sim­i­lar hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture, to pre­vent loved ones from hav­ing to suf­fer from it, to pro­vide clo­sure for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. Or so you’d think. In the case of a small Caribbean is­land sit­u­ated 14° north of the equa­tor and 61° west of the prime merid­ian, its pop­u­la­tion seems to have a var­ied per­spec­tive.

Rape: “un­law­ful sex­ual ac­tiv­ity and usu­ally sex­ual in­ter­course car­ried out forcibly or un­der threat of in­jury against the will usu­ally of a fe­male or with a per­son who is be­neath a cer­tain age or in­ca­pable of valid con­sent be­cause of men­tal ill­ness, men­tal de­fi­ciency, in­tox­i­ca­tion, un­con­scious­ness, or de­cep­tion.” - Mer­riam-Web­ster Dic­tio­nary.

Rape can also be de­fined as un­law­ful sex­ual ac­tiv­ity car­ried out against the will of women and chil­dren but con­tin­u­ously by­passed by Saint Lu­cia’s courts, schools, prin­ci­pals, forensic depart­ment, po­lice force, gov­ern­ment, par­ents and the gen­eral pub­lic. It is a form of un­ad­dressed sex­ual as­sault. Fil­ter­ing down from the coun­try’ lead­ers, rape has be­come an is­sue of com­fort, where cases are spo­ken about and hushed un­til the pub­lic for­gets about them. “The fish rots from the head.”

This crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity trick­les down to the in­sti­tu­tions meant to ed­u­cate and pro­tect our chil­dren. Where they are to be taught ba­sic morals, val­ues and prin­ci­ples to be co­op­er­a­tive in so­ci­ety, in some cases their Prin­ci­pal se­duces them in­stead. This de­spite their age. Then the of­fender would be ‘re­warded’ with the op­por­tu­nity to flee the coun­try or be trans­ferred to a higher po­si­tion in ed­u­ca­tion. It’s no bother when the teach­ers are si­lenced con­cern­ing such ac­tiv­ity or when they begin to do it too. And I sup­pose in the long haul it’s ac­cept­able for stu­dents to par­tic­i­pate in un­law­ful sex­ual ac­tiv­ity as it stands now.

Stu­dents have been re­port­ing rape in schools for gen­er­a­tions so it is not some­thing of re­cent in­tro­duc­tion. How­ever, al­though our leg­is­la­tion states that the crime of rape is pun­ish­able by up to a life­time in prison, ac­tion is only taken if the vic­tim (or in the case of stu­dents, a par­ent) presses charges. But in the sit­u­a­tion of stu­dents be­ing gang-raped by other stu­dents on and off the school com­pound should the preda­tors go un­pun­ished? Vic­tims re­port to the schools hav­ing been black­mailed, drugged, or tricked into some form of sex­ual in­ter­ac­tion only to have to re­sort to be­ing trans­ferred to an­other school or dis­ap­pear from the face of the is­land. The of­fend­ers are sus­pended for the max­i­mum amount of time and re­turn to pa­rade on the schools’ com­pound. Teach­ers are then told not to ask ques­tions be­cause the case is ei­ther un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion or has not been re­ported. What does that tell the stu­dents? That it is tol­er­a­ble to have knowledge of such a crim­i­nal of­fence with no ac­tion hav­ing be­ing taken against it?

This is how it be­comes ac­cept­able. It is passed down from one gen­er­a­tion of abused chil­dren to the next. Cases go un­re­ported be­cause of the fear of be­ing shamed and ridiculed or be­cause of the over­all wide­spread acceptance of sex­ual vi­o­lence. When the com­ment “there are one or two se­rial rapists in our midst” causes stir for a while, and is never ad­dressed again, we deem that per­fectly ac­cept­able. When the me­dia fails to con­tin­u­ously ques­tion such sit­u­a­tions, the pub­lic seems to for­get. When school fac­ulty pre­tends that rapes on the com­pound never hap­pened it teaches the younger gen­er­a­tion that they will con­tin­u­ously get away with break­ing the law.

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