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Victim blaming

Victim blaming

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St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a beautiful island with warm sandy beaches and warm people to match; however, in light of the recent charges laid against three young men accused of statutory rape of a young teen, I’ve witnessed a huge monstrosity within my own people: victim blaming.

“Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them.” I hope this sounds familiar, as it is quite common in the Caribbean, particularly SVG.

Whenever a woman is a victim of sexual assault, people never wonder about the assaulter. Pertinent questions such as where they work, whether this is their first offence, and if they are often exposed to children are ignored. Conversely, there are so many questions posed about the victim. These questions usually revolve around the woman’s lifestyle, her usual dress code; they even go as far as to imply that she may have “enticed” the rapist.

These questions are often posed in society’s vain attempt at explaining sexual assault. It immediately makes the victim guilty until proven innocent and the assaulter, innocent until proven guilty. There is a fundamental flaw in this kind of logic, as it places all scrutiny on the victim and none on the assaulter. RAPISTS RAPE, they rape children, adults and the elderly. There is no rhyme or reason; if rapists figures they can overpower you, they will try to assault you.

A second monstrosity is our blind eye to statutory rape. Statutory rape is broadly defined as having sexual relations with a teenager, younger than the age of consent. Consent or sexual relations with a minor is not acceptable in the eyes of the law, as minors are largely seen as unfit for major decision making.

We are all aware that minors cannot be relied on to make sound decisions, yet we accept it when older predatory adults (usually men) engage in sexual contact with them. An adult having sexual contact with minors is disturbingly common, yet you hardly hear about them being taken to court.

We accept it as a social norm, particularly among the poorer communities. “Perhaps the girls are ‘fast’ and are more likely to attract older men” is the usual response garnered. However, the truth is much more sinister. These men prey on minors they know lack attention, particularly from their parents. They convince them that they care, and will provide for them in the ways their parents cannot, whether with money or affection.

Moreover, as the minors believe they are cared for, they are unlikely to report these men. Thus the responsibility lies on the parents and guardians to keep a close eye and report these incidences. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to these predators; they are crippling our youth before they have a chance to fully grow and mature.

These issues cannot solve themselves; they will not go away if we keep them a secret and ignore them. Sometimes, it starts with a conversation. Speak to your children and explain why having a relationship with an adult is unhealthy and most importantly, illegal.

The next time you hear someone is assaulted, don’t immediately doubt their story; don’t judge and belittle them. Put yourself in their shoes; if this were you, would you tell such a lie?

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