Sex crimes against women and girls are underreported, experts agree

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Sexual violence against women and girls is an epidemic, said Koren Norton, a well-known family counsellor. Referring to police reports that show more than 200 cases of rape, incest, unlawful sexual intercourse, serious indecency and unlawful carnal knowledge were reported between 2001 and 2016, Norton said these crimes are underreported.
There are “probably twice as much,” she said. The root of the problem is a social one due to the fact that boys are raised to “feel that aggression is okay and that violence gives them a certain type of power,” Norton explained. “We raise our females to be more submissive; be the weaker, softer sex.”
She said that although the criminal justice system is improving when sexual abuse is reported, it is still a daunting task for the victim to face publicity and a lack of confidentiality, especially when allegations are made against law enforcement officers and “persons who are in politics or in government.”
In that case, the victim is fearful of going “up against such a person because there are times when a person reports something and nothing gets done because of who the report is made against.” Experts say these crimes, especially sexual assaults against children, go unreported because the perpetrators are often familiar to the victims and may have trusting relationships with them.
Lebrechtta Nana Oye Hesse-Bayne, regional social economist and gender expert, said that young sexually abused children have a difficult time distinguishing what is right and wrong “especially if an adult says it’s okay and threatens to harm the child or their loved ones if they reveal the assault.”
That’s when the “real fear” sets in, said Dr Jacqueline Sharpe, child and adolescent psychiatrist practising in Trinidad & Tobago. She agreed that having “affection relationships” with a perpetrator makes it confusing and complicated for a child who expects the offending adult to provide for and protect them only to be betrayed by them “by doing things that harm the child.”
Complicating it even further, Norton said, “The child becomes fearful of saying something because they feel like ‘I am going to be blamed because I allowed it.’ That’s guilt, Sharpe said, especially “since in many societies children are blamed for their behaviour.”
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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