NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Rape and sexual assault continue to pose a notable threat in the Bahamian community, according to psychologist and Bahamas Crisis Centre Founder, Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson.
Patterson believes there needs to be a greater focus on addressing problems that surround the social ill.
“One of the most important things is for us to recognize victims and to say that they are right to talk about it and to bring it to our attention so as a country we can deal with it and address it in a more effective way,” she said.
Dean-Patterson explained that with the high number of rape statistics, education and awareness are key in helping victims to recognize that what is being done to them when they are raped or assaulted is wrong as many rape cases are never officially reported to police.
“If you look at our statistics they had their gender-based violence task force we corrected the statistics and it was absolutely horrendous each number is a person.
“If you look at the 1990’s and one of the issues is, you know there were 3,093 reports of rapes, incest, and unlawful sexual intercourse and the numbers have been going up since then, and one of the issues is that we need to do more to ensure that perpetrators are accountable and that they don’t get away with it.”
She furthered that especially in the case of children who are sexually abused, it’s important for the community to step up and demonstrate that the community cares by assisting them in being able to identify and report instances.
Patterson said: “You know rape is described as the single most under-reported crime in the country and one of the problems is because it’s under-reported people don’t understand how often it happens.
“What we have to do is make sure that the consequences for perpetrators and unfortunately in our country, the consequences for perpetrators are not what they need to be.”
Patterson described the issue as a ‘culture of rape’ in which many people struggle to acknowledge or even identify when they have been raped or sexually assaulted.
“That’s why the whole education of the country and for persons to understand that they don’t have a right to force a child or an adult to have sex and it’s a crime and it’s public health issues and the public needs to all be speaking with one voice about this,” she said.
“I think one very significant factor is the survey that was done on young people and they found that in the Caribbean, I think 48% of the girls who had experienced sexual assault had said that they were forced.
Patterson added: “It’s something that we need to learn as behavior that is unacceptable that you have no right to do that whether it’s your child or whether it’s your spouse or whether it’s to girlfriend or whether it’s somebody who you work with that there is no excuse.”