“Bawl ‘Murder! Advantage!’” was the title of an article I wrote in this medium more than 10 years ago. The occasion, then, was the outrage POWA felt at the sentence imposed on a sex-offender; and I can hardly believe that, a decade later, I have cause to bawl again.
Over the past two weeks, the Court has handed down sentences – for serious crimes – that amount, not to a slap on the wrist, but a pat on the back of the offenders. I had scarcely closed my mouth from reading a regional article in which an adult male explained that he had had sex with a 12-year-old because she was “horny,” before my jaw hit the floor again here at home.
A man rapes, admits to raping a little girl, and we discover that, before he “had her” he had already taken advantage of her sister, both being under the age of 15 years. And what is the penalty for double the “trouble?” Six years in prison – which we know will be less than 72 calendar months.
In a more recent instance, another man has sex with another underage girl, reportedly the best friend of his daughter. Then when he is caught with his trousers down and his shirt up, he accuses her of having told him she was 17. Really, Mister?
And what is his punishment for unlawful carnal knowledge, coupled with a little fiction? Two years inside 1735. And why? The “victim” did not report/display any adverse effects from her romp with a man old enough to be her daddy. Really, Judge? That one probably had precedent, though. After all, a whole court of adult professionals – and, supposedly, other grown people from a department that is mandated to look after the welfare of children – conceded that a girl (who was all of 13 years old when a police officer reportedly mistook her for his wife) could decide that a prosecutor should not be prosecuted….
What is really wrong with this society? We live in a place where people scream bloody murder when black boys they have never met are shot down by policemen in America. Yet they can turn a blind eye and a deaf ear and strike an attitude of indifference when little girls who might have gone to pre-school with their own children are raped by adults … and then raped again by “the system.”
In the same news edition, a young man who committed a robbery using a fake gun – though remorseful and explaining that he needed to buy food – was sentenced to more time than the randy daddy who brandished sausage while he waited for pizza.
“The justice system is telling the society that it does not place significance or value on the virtue of our young women,” a mother of two school-aged girls tells me. “Nobody seems to be concerned about the long-term impact these violations will have on these victims. Where is Gender Affairs to speak up when these ridiculous sentences are given in the court?”
Let me tell you where: I was at a panel discussion two weeks ago and brought this very matter to the attention of the Gender Affairs Minister, the President of Women Against Rape (WAR), and the President of the Senate, who, not incidentally, sponsors a mentoring program for young girls.
The topic that night was about getting more women involved in politics; and the discussion splintered, as expected, when the reality of partisan politics was introduced. I offered what I thought was a cause all parties could agree on, and asked that those with the power to “do something” actually do something. But I have not heard a word, since, from any of the organisations these powerful women head up about the advantage – legal, physical, pyschological, and emotional – taken of these little girls. And, yes, I added emotional on purpose. After all, in the case of the “horny” victim, she told the court she thought that the big ‘hard-tone’ MAN was her “boyfriend.”
My POWA sister, Joy-Ann Harrigan, a counselor and advocate, herself, has asked often, including last week, what kind of adults are we creating when we treat children the way we do? Little ‘forced-ripe’ fruit often will become mature fruit that is sour or bitter. What type of partners will they make? What sort of mothers will they become? As Joy-Ann says, how the abuse is handled will determine whether they emerge as survivors or victims….
We throw around the word “development” loosely, carelessly, ignorantly, not even realising the breadth of it. Rape and the abuse of girls happen in other places, too, yes; even bigger and richer places. But in truly developed countries, there is an expectation of better behaviour and of punishment fitting the crime. Why is it acceptable here for a police officer to be accused of the things he was accused of, to run away, to hide away, to then interfere with an investigation into a heinous act, and then be reinstated simply because a child said, “I don’t want to?”
Obviously, it is the adults who “don’t want to:” To be bothered. To embarass friends and associates. To peel the scab off this decades-old sore on the society. To make “connected” people pay. So much so that when, last week, the court committed a businessman to stand trial for sexual relations with two little girls, grown women, mothers, gasped in surprise, saying they “thought dat already t’row ‘way….”
In my original article, I referred to a young Antiguan girl in colonial times who told the estate owner that she had been raped by the overseer. When the talk got to be too much for him, he rode her down with his horse and she fell into a pond. She could not swim, and the adults on the plantation were too afraid to intervene. So they all stood and watched her drown….
Little girls are drowning again in plain sight. Murder! Advantage come back!