Daubed with the dubious title of one of the parishes with the highest rate of sexual abuse of children, some residents of St Thomas are shifting the blame from the perpetrators of these attacks to the parents and even the children who are the victims.
To compound the matter, the residents are refusing to cooperate with police who are pushing to prosecute adults who prey on these, mainly, girls.
“Many community members are not aware of some of the criminal offences. They know that it is wrong to have sex with a person under sixteen, but they may not know about the sexual grooming or touching, or even the possession of child pornography,” said assistant superintendent Hopeton Nicholson, in charge of the Yallahs police.
According to Nicholson, in a recent community meeting in 11 Miles, Bull Bay, he was asked by several young men about the practice, and it was clear that they had no idea that it was illegal and could carry a jail sentence.
It was a similar story from other residents as they questioned the circumstances surrounding the recent murder of 14-year-old Kayalicia Simpson who was pregnant.
While expressing shock and outrage at the killing of Kayalicia, many persons argued that she should also be blamed.
“She never said anything, and they never made any report of any rape. Them young girls, here now-a-days no play; them want phone and clothes and the latest everything, and them will take big man fi get it,” declared one woman who asked not to be named.
“Man a go always go after young girl. Him get more excitement with them. When you see a car down at (Rudolph Elder) Park, and a man and him girl in the car, it ago be a school girl,” charged Tony D., a phone card vendor.
“A man’s weakness is a woman, and young girl always know how to get man. No make nobody tell you nothing; (older) woman hard to get, so if you can get a girl, you keep her, and when she get old, the love go way, and you find another girl,” added Tony D.
He was supported by several women who argued that while the adult should be held responsible, the underage girls should not be given a free pass.
“The both of them should be held accountable. The girl shouldn’t entertain no big man argument, and if him ask for sex, she can say no. But this generation licky licky. The big phones them always get them. And them will use them body to get it and lead man astray,” charged Sana M.
Little To Do With The Law
Several adult men in the parish admitted that they had engaged in sexual activity with underage girls, with a few claiming they stopped once they had their own daughters.
It was clear that fear of the law had little to do with their decision to end intimate relationships with underage girls, as most said their fear was getting the girls pregnant while they were in school.
Some men argued that the problem lies with families who are so impoverished that they see their female children as a means of bringing in an extra income.
“Unemployment levels, especially in deep rural areas, make it hard for parents to send their children to school, and they send girls to find a protector, who will assist with school expenses and also assist the family with food and other necessities,” said one woman.
“I have a friend, the man ugly, him no look good, but is a young girl him have. And the family know about it,” said Tony D.
“All man like him can’t get no woman, but cause him can give the mother a $5,000.00 a week, them cool. But the girl a text and call young boy behind him back, and a there so the problem start now, because a no him she want, but him in love, so him get violent if she cheat,” added Tony D.
Some mothers in St Thomas are also being accused of pushing their unwilling girls into adult relationships while arguing that the girls are going to have sex anyway, so profiting from it is not a crime.
“One mother, I know, beat her daughter when the little girl go to the neighbour and say the mother’s boyfriend trouble her. When the neighbour carry the girl come hospital, the mother come up here and curse and say she ungrateful, cause she have a room for herself now, and she get lunch money, and little sex no hurt. But the girl did pregnant, and she wasn’t even fourteen yet,” related one nurse who works in a health facility in the parish.
According to the nurse, some parents turn a blind eye to accusations of sexual abuse including incest because they are completely reliant on the men who commit these crimes.
“Most of the cases of rape I hear about is when a man and a girl into things and him promise her something, and when him don’t give her, she upset, so she carry it go station say a rape,” charged one vendor.
“Some of these young girls wear some things sometimes, how them expect man to leave them alone if them look like big woman? And why them go with the man if them never expect sex? Don’t go nowhere you not supposed to be and no rape will happen to you,” added the vendor.
The St Thomas police and the Child Development Agency (CDA) are attempting to combat these issues with sensitisation seminars and public education, but the belief that a little sex is no trouble is so deep that there may never be an end to the problem.