Jamaicans, young and old and in all walks of life, are still consumed with the issue of the abuse of young girls by older men in privileged positions… Not a new issue, often hidden and secret – but an “open secret.” Many views have been expressed. I am sharing on my blog more perspectives that you, dear readers, may not have come across before. Here is a piece from Eve for Life, the non-governmental organization that has worked tirelessly for years with girls and young women who are mothers, most with HIV/AIDS. They are not a “charity”; they are an “empowerment organization” in my view, and they continue to quietly do amazing work. NOTE: There have been several developments since this article was written, including the resignation of the President and Vice President of the Moravian Church in Jamaica, who were subsequently also charged with similar offenses.
Protect the Jamaican Girl Child from Sexual Violence: Eve for Life says to Jamaica “Nuh Guh Deh!”
The horrific issue of sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child in Jamaican society has again come to the fore, with the recent news about the carnal abuse charge against clergyman Rupert Clarke.
Sadly however, once more the debate on carnal abuse and rape of our girls has generated much heat but very little light. The issue, as it has played out in the media and public discourse, illustrates our society’s acceptance and willingness to diminish the physical body and personhood of the young girl, and protect and make excuses for the abuser/predator.
Eve for Life’s work with girls and young women affected by sexual violence has revealed that one of the underlying causes for the persistence of this crime and its intractability is a cultural acceptance of the sexual abuse of the girl child in Jamaican society. So many in our society view sexual abuse of our girls as “Just likkle sex” or come to a conclusion that “It a go happen to had anyway,” “A dat ooman make for,” “A fe har fault” or “Young gyal too licky licky.”
The current case against the clergyman provides a number of examples of these attitudes at all levels of Jamaican society and which are of deep concern to Eve for Life:
- At his bail hearing, the Minister who was reportedly found in a “compromising position” in a motor vehicle with the 15 year-old girl, “was supported by members of his family as well as members of the St Elizabeth Ministers Fraternal who remained in the precincts of the court awaiting the outcome.” (Gleaner online Wednesday, January 4, 2016).
- The Principal of Hampton High School for Girls was at the bail hearing for the Minister and stoutly maintained her defence of her presence and attempt to block the work of the media covering the court hearing, until intense public pressure and the pressure of the School Board came to bear on her.
- Education Minister Ruel Reid’s initial reaction seemed to indicate that he did not seem to find anything wrong with the Principal’s presence at the courthouse and his position changed only after public discussion and debate of the issue prompted calls for an official report on her conduct and the School Board’s summoning of the Principal.
- The criminal case of sexual abuse involving the crime of carnal abuse was labelled (and diminished) as “the saga” by an officiating minister addressing a weeping congregation of the Nazareth Moravian church (Gleaner report, Monday January 9 2016)
- The majority of respondents to an online Jamaica Observer Public Poll felt that the Hampton principal should not be dismissed from her job for attending court in the case of a pastor on a sex charge, when such a charge would be unacceptable for a teacher under her supervision.
- The Observer newspaper’s editorial on January 11, 2017 which was apparently written to denounce gender based violence reduces the crime of sexual abuse to “sexual controversy” and “sexual escapades” and ultimately blames the victim for an “allure” which makes men lose control. The editorial, which must have been reviewed by more than one member of staff on the national newspaper, and which is to be taken as a reflection of the paper’s position on the issue, begins: “Moravian clergyman Rev Rupert Clarke is only the latest in a long line of men with great responsibility, stretching across generations, to have been dogged by sexual controversy…Indeed, kings have renounced their thrones and great leaders have been brought low by their sexual escapades that were not in keeping with the ethical and moral standards expected of their lofty positions. The allure of women seems to be one of the great acts of God or nature and equally one of the great mysteries to men who often don’t know how to handle it.”
With all the attention and consideration given to the Minister (who has been offered bail) and to the Principal of Hampton – who has been sent on two weeks’ leave and who the Education Ministry says is expected to go for professional counselling services for her recent emotional stress – (Gleaner online report, January 11, 2017), Eve for Life urges all Jamaicans to give more attention and consideration for the circumstances and situation of the young girl and her family.
We commend the work of the Child Development Agency which has done investigations, has moved the girl and a younger sibling into protective care and is also working to secure viable housing for the family. We also commend the State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, who has called for the protection of the interests of the girl child.
Eve for Life supports these efforts to help the victim and calls on all other sectors, agencies and individuals to take a stand and protect our girl children from sexual violence. Respect our girls. Value our girls. Tell the predators “Nuh Guh Deh!”