Sexual-assault victims lack confidence in justice system, says United and Strong Inc

Sexual-assault victims lack confidence in justice system, says United and Strong Inc
Bennet Charles

Saint Lucia recorded an increase in sexual violence cases in 2015, particularly rape, and from recent reports, this trend is slowly developing again.

Advocacy Officer of United and Strong Inc, Bennet Charles, has said that his organization is deeply concerned about the issue and would like to see some level of justice served in each case.

But more importantly, the organization which has been at the forefront of working towards ending gender-based violence in Saint Lucia, is concerned about the many cases of rape that goes unreported.

Charles told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) on Thursday (Feb.18) that while most of the recent rape cases have been reported in the North of the island, these may not be the only cases.

One of the main reasons for this, according to Charles, is a lot of these cases go unreported because the victim may fear the repercussions and ridicule from the community.

Another reason is because persons have lost faith in the judicial system, and sometimes government institutions and even NGOs provide limited support, mainly due to a lack of resources.

“Sadly, you may find a lot of cases go unreported. One of the things we have always expressed is justice for victims of any form of gender-based violence,” the advocacy officer lamented.

Some victims would also stop pursuing these cases, because of the length of time it takes for the judicial system to bring some level of justice to them, especially since many loophole currently exists.

“Imagine you are going to report a case and you have to be giving that evidence over and over again, and you may find that it is stalled and the court hearing is delayed. All of those things add to why persons may not want to report these cases. They would tend to think it’s a waste of time,” Charles stated.

But according to the United and Strong Inc official, while this may be so for a few people, some victims do get the justice they deserve, but this is not often reported, which leaves people to assume that nothing is going to happen if they make a report to the police.

Asked whether he thinks that rape cases involving foreign nationals should receive more attention than a national, Charles said while he understands that the matter involving a foreigner may be treated as a sensitive case, each case of gender-based violence in Saint Lucia should be treated equally.

“A lot of times when it comes to a foreigner, it become sensitive for the country because of the tourist value. And people may see it as being treated differently. But sadly, the very same thing applies to nationals. If you have any national exposed to rape or gender-based violence it also sends a strong message to the international arena that Saint Lucia is not a safe place,” he added.

Charles told SNO while he would support a national conversation on the issue, he noted that a lot of conversations have taken place in the past and NGOs like his, understands how the system works, and it is therefore time for more work to be placed on addressing the loopholes in the judicial system.

On Tuesday, a store attendant was raped in the North of the island, while on February 6, a British national who was staying at a villa in Cas en Bas was brutally raped in her room. A senior police officer was on also on Wednesday charged with raping a female late last year.


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