Category: Island Talk Created on Thursday, 30 August 2012 06:43
Given the recent occurrence involving the sexual assault of a two year old on the island of Montserrat, it’s safe to say that one cannot obtain justice, if there is no defined standard for disposal of incidents of sexual assault. When people break the law, they should suffer the consequences. They shouldn’t be rewarded with a trip to have big fun in another country and carry on as though this is normal. When we encourage such nonsense, with the excuses that a government minister was acting on the advice of a sitting magistrate, then we are telling our youths that a life of crime has no consequences.
Although society demands justice for this little girl, unless clear guidelines involving punishment and treatment are established, every incident will be handled arbitrarily. Justice will never be served, if outcomes are influenced by how easily individuals can be bribed, and how individuals are connected to those who influence outcomes.
In small island states, communities are unaware of the power they possess and often think they are at the mercy of those in power. We are all familiar with the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s because society is an institution. Society is no different from church or school. It’s one of the avenues in which our children learn what is acceptable behaviour. When we reinforce bad behavior and coach children to disregard the law, we are adding to the pool of future offenders and making a deposit into the prison population.
Whether we believe it or not, we are responsible for our communities. We decide what we want, because we are the ones who elect those who sit in office. When our communities fall apart, we are all affected, and when it falls apart we are to blame.
How Enabling Hurts Society
I understand that child abuse and rape are difficult topics for West Indian communities. However, at some point, we need to evaluate our morals, our ethical standards, and our responsibility and duty towards others, as human beings who share a common environment. We know that when we defend inappropriate and otherwise criminal behaviour, we’re as guilty as the perpetrator. That goes for the politicians too who are more interested in political survival than seeing to it that his Minister gives a proper account to the public. By shielding the wrongs of others, we are, in fact, contributing to the deterioration of our society. We are allowing crime and political misconduct to fester, grow and eventually consume us. Nothing is gained when we become enablers.
When juveniles offend, they should not be rewarded. Rewarding juvenile delinquents reinforces negative behaviour and sends the message that it’s acceptable to violate others and the law. Without proper care, this individual will probably offend in the future thinking that someone will be there to bail him again, or make sure he is exempt from punishment based on a technicality. This turns the criminal justice system into a circus because, at the end of the day, none of us benefit.
The Dangers Of Delayed Intervention
According to the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, a publication disseminated by the U.S. Department of Justice, 85-95% of juvenile sex offenders do not become future sex offenders. If there are any future encounters with the law, such encounters normally involve property crimes and drug offenses. Even though there isn’t an overwhelming concern pertaining to future sexual offences, there is still a need to immediately address and not protect juvenile criminal behavior.
From a commonsense perspective, delayed intervention might contribute to overly aggressive youths with no sense of responsibility or respect, and sheltering teens might lead to reinforcement of criminal behaviour that places youths on the path to gang involvement, dropping out of school, and becoming a nuisance.
Shielding first time offenders opens the door to them committing even more heinous crimes, becoming career criminals, and putting further strain on our limited human, prison, and rehabilitative resources.
When sex crimes are covered up and go unpunished, we’re declaring that women are not that important, that we can be violated at will, that we are less than human, and that we are inferior and weak. This reaction sets the wrong standard for future involvement with females. Could it be that our silence, lack of compassion and lack of involvement have contributed to Caribbean men having the reputation of being skirt chasers and fearful of commitment? After all, what are they committing to when some of us still view victims as damaged goods and such crimes continue to go unpunished?
I was taught to never let my encounter with anyone leave them worst off. We need to instill this into our youths. When we shield youth offenders, our communities are left worst off.
We really need to wake up and realize that we have to change our mentality in order for anything to change. We shouldn’t attack anyone with the audacity to initiate open dialogue. Dialogue has been long overdue, on this matter. We should view this as a step towards addressing a problem that has plagued every black community for generations, and realize how we contribute to many of the evils we eventually complain about.
At the time of publishing this article, MNI Alive for the third time reached out to Minister Colin Riley for a statement from him, towards which he returned no reply. Additionally, MNI Alive has spoken to the family whose two year old was molested and have been informed that Minister Riley has not even had the decency to pay a personal visit and offer an apology to the family for his involvement and subsequent actions, much less so not even asked of their well being.
Editor-in-Chief’s Note: Ebonie Jones is an Editorial Contributor with MNI Alive.
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