WITH children being the complainants in 36 of the 46 sex offence cases heard by the Trelawny Circuit Court last term, commander of the police division for that parish, Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Winston Milton says cops are now worried about “an emerging trend” whereby fathers and stepfathers are primarily the perpetrators in the area which has struggled with paedophilia historically.
“We are seeing an emerging trend with fathers and stepfathers being the perpetrators,” Milton told the Jamaica Observer on Monday. The cop, who said he was unable to supply the figures, stated that while police records have indicated that there has been a historical issue with sex crimes against children, there had been nothing to indicate that fathers were having sex with their daughters.
Now he says the police have been seeing more of this occurrence, which is offset by an even more worrying factor of complicit relatives who would prefer that the victimised children keep silent.
“The worrying concern for us in relation to this is that sometimes we see these victims being victims twice; meaning, they are victims of a sexual crime and there is also pressure by family members not to pursue the matter in court, and they are seen as pariahs when they do,” Milton told the Observer.
According to the divisional commander, who said he is nonplussed by the reasoning of the adults in question, it is felt that because the crime has already occurred, the offending relative should be allowed to continue life without prosecution.
In noting the high numbers of cases before the courts for prosecution in this respect, DSP Milton said, “We know we are going up against a deep-seated cultural practice and it won’t turn around overnight, but we have been relentless. We are enjoying a hundred per cent clear-up rate in relation to these cases because the victims know their perpetrators and this is because the perpetrators are usually in a position of trust — neighbours, guardians, fathers, stepfathers.”
“What we do know is that we have a serious social issue in the parish in relation to this particular concern,” DSP Milton said, noting that some of the cases were before the courts prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the police have been partnering with external stakeholders, like the Church, lay magistrates, and others, to reach some of the likely victims and perpetrators.
The lawman’s observations parallel those made by a senior member of the Bar with knowledge of the matters before the court in that locale.
The lawyer, in an exclusive interview with the Observer in July, highlighting cases like that of a father who repeatedly abducted his teen daughter and raped her while videoing the encounters to satisfy what he said was his curiosity about what sex with his own child would feel like to a 60-year-old who threatened “to Obeah” his 12-year-old neighbour if she did not have sex with him, called for the communities to be named and shamed.
The victims, who the Observer learnt are largely from the south Trelawny communities of Albert Town, Sawyer, Deeside, Litchfield, and Bottom River, have been largely ostracised by community members, some of whom have gone as far as to classify some of them as “loose” and “sluts”.
“We are in a crisis in southern Trelawny. When you can pinpoint a geographical area it is bad. It is not a situation where it is scattered all over the place. I think these communities need to be named and shamed; they need to hear their community names being called and they are ashamed that this is where they live. It is terrible down here,” the senior counsel told the Observer. She said, in this instance, no fingers can be pointed at the justice system.
“It’s not a failure on the part of the police to respond or to act, the matters are before the courts, so the police must be doing something, but the communities are complicit, the people who live in these communities are just so accepting, it’s the norm,” the attorney stated.
Chief Justice Bryan Sykes, who was on the Trelawny Circuit and hearing the matters, blasted the offenders while slapping them with heavy sentences and disparaging what he termed “a culture and a pattern” in that locale.
In March last year the Government opened a new child-friendly space for interviewing and assisting child victims, operated by the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) in Trelawny. The multidisciplinary space was designed to provide child victims with a safe and private location to access immediate law enforcement and medical attention as well as referral to additional services in a trauma-informed setting.