Born and Bred “In Our Midst”
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.