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Co-founder and director of Positive Reactions Over Secrets and Fears (PROSAF) Souyenne Dathorne is calling on government to establish a more coherent system, by which victims of sexual violence could receive better protection and care.
Dathorne told St Lucia News Online SNO on Thursday (Mar. 20) that while the penalties for such crimes are rigid, it is now time for government to turn its attention towards creating a safe space for victims of sexual assault and to help them reintegrate with society, especially those who are victims of rape.
Dathorne explained that while there is a National Crisis Centre, there is a dire need for a separate centre to be established for persons who have been sexually-assaulted. She said a prompt response could help victims to move on more quickly, instead of leaving room for them to be traumatised for the rest of their lives.
Dathorne, who specialises in Forensic Psychology, said she has had experiences with counseling many such victims. Since she has assessed the local situation, she has identified the measures needed to improve the delivery of service to victims.
Persons who tend to experience such assaults remain timid and distant from society for a long time, she informed, adding that they continue to live in fear and distress.
Dathorne lamented over the frequent increase in cases like these here, noting “everyday cases of sexual assault or rape are reported in St Lucia.” However, she said in majority of the cases perpetrators somehow never get prosecuted.
According to Dathorne, instances where victims attempt suicide, become drug abusers, cut themselves or are bribed to not pursue the court matter can be avoided, if proper protection and care is given to these victims.
The PROSAF director believes also that there is a dire need for a change in the culture of how people view victims of sexual violence, where the blame is most times placed on the victim, especially teenage girls, who are molested or raped.
The PROSAF director said two studies were done by her organisation; one between June and December of 2013 and another in July of 2013. Apart from these studies, the organisation has run support groups for survivors of sexual violence/rape; established a support validation hotline and trained individuals to become sexual assault advocates.
PROSAF, with the help of the British High Commission of St Lucia, was able to run successful sexual violence education programmes in various secondary schools.
PROSAF was able to identify that out of a total population of 162,781 in St Lucia – 51.23 percent being females, approximately 27,800 females here are likely to become sexual assault victims. This estimation came as a result of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Caribbean Human Development Report of 2012, which indicates that one in three women will fall victim of sexual violence in the Caribbean.
Operating under two main branches, PROSAF brings to the forefront issues such as the lack of comprehensive education and the effects and incidence of sexual assault in society. The Power Of One and Surviving Sexual Abuse in The Caribbean are the founding movements of PROSAF. Each branch encourages and facilitates society to speak out, and seek resources to address problems of sexual assault and domestic violence affecting them.