Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sexual assault in Bahamas 'has reached unacceptable heights'


WHILE the number of reported rape cases in the Bahamas is increasing, convictions of sexual offenders are not, according to the Bahamas Crisis Centre.

Dr Sandra Dean Patterson, director of the Centre, told The Tribune that sexual assault in the Bahamas has reached "unacceptable heights."

"Rape has almost become endemic in our society," she said.

Donna Nicolls, a counsellor at the Centre added: "There is certainly an increase in the number reported because of the advocacy and the laws. There are also cases that came to our attention that are not being reported - that goes without saying."

"We see a lot of the results now of the rapes and molestation that have never been documented because of fear.

"What is not happening is convictions. I personally get excited when I see convictions.

"But the women are choosing to not go through the legal process, the process is demeaning," Mrs Nicolls said.

According to Dr Patterson, the system for dealing with sex crimes has to be improved. Victims currently wait up to eight years to get justice, she pointed out.

"We have to do more to address it. It is very important that people be charged."

Head of the Central Detective Unit (CDU) Asst Supt Leon Bethel told The Tribune that sexual offences are difficult to police and investigate.

"As long as the matter comes to us we investigate it and send them to court, (but) is hard to police sexual intercourse, it normally happens behind closed doors," he said. "It is a manifestation to what is going on in the society."

According to Assistant Superintendent Moxey, head of the CDU's Technology Management Section: "The basic approach we have is an educational awareness programme.

"In addition we are trying to put the persons before the court. The penalties are stiff, the laws are adequate," he said.

ASP Moxey told The Tribune one of the biggest areas of concern in recent years has been sex crimes committed by minors, but the police's efforts to speak with and educate students seem to be having a positive impact.

"We cannot eradicate it totally, but we can have the problem reduced to a minimum through educational changes," he said.

March 31, 2010