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Ours is a Sick Society!

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ON THE FRONT PAGE of the Searchlight of August 23 was a piece written by Lyf Compton, captioned “We can’t pretend a rape culture does not exist”.

It was a news item from a workshop held by the Psychology Department of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH). The agenda focused on efforts to increase awareness of child sexual abuse in SVG.

The feature address was delivered by Kimberley Cambridge, a young psychologist attached to the hospital. Her presentation was informed by startling statistics relevant to the sexual abuse of women and children of both genders. She indicated that between January 2018 and January 2019, 47 new cases of rape were reported to her department. Of those cases 40 were girls under age 18. One case involved a male under 12.

They were not, according to the news item, localised, but were from 35 different communities. She stated that the first experience of girls under 12 was forced, in 42.8 percent of the cases, a huge number she noted. She admitted that many people did not want to talk about the issue, but argued that it had to be addressed in order to fight it. She described it as an “inconvenient truth”, but insisted that we have to face it so that changes could be made. The problem, she declared, did not only exist in SVG.

Additionally, she noted that her department sees on an average two new rape victims per week, not including cases brought before the outpatient department and those seen on the wards. The 2019 statistics, she suggested, could possibly be 112 per 100,000. Reports of rape and sexual abuse are frequently reported in the media, but to hear a professional speak about the issue based on statistics collected was illuminating. It was reassuring to know that there was someone around, concerned and alarmed enough to ring a warning bell. But that is not the end of the story. It was discussed on the traditional and social media and she was subjected to all sorts of verbal abuse.

She indicated on her Facebook page that ”since the story broke my name has been maligned, my sanity questioned and my qualification questioned, all because in my profession I see so many children who have been sexually assaulted”. She was even accused of colluding with NDP operatives.

My response to all of this is to say that our society is sick. To speak about “rape culture” was to tarnish the good name of SVG? She explained at the workshop and on her Facebook page what she meant by ‘rape culture’. Some claimed she was damaging our tourist industry, but in other countries, like Jamaica, heavily dependent on Tourism, they call it for what it is. Isn’t she capable, based on her education and experience, of coming to her own conclusion?

Why is everything in this country given a political twist? Recently it was reported that a 10-yearold girl gave birth. The discussion goes haywire when emphasis is put on debating the correct age of under-aged victims. Does it matter whether it is 10, 11 or 12? What is at stake is that there is an issue that needs to be addressed!

Foreigners following news items here about sexual abuse will be much more comfortable listening to Kimberley, realising that there is someone at the top of the game who is prepared to address the issue and is calling on others to assist, as she did on Facebook. “We definitely need some loud advocates to champion the little ones, because we definitely have not been doing a good job. My voice is loud, but not loud enough”. The psychological impact on the victims of rape and sexual abuse is often forgotten, but must be addressed. We have to confront these issues and not blame the messenger.

Kimberley, I applaud you!

l Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian