Media have downplayed problem of sexual abuse

Dear Editor,

I applaud Junior Minister for Social Protection Simona Broomes for her avowed commitment to address the scourge of rape. She has to take moves to eradicate not only rape but all acts of sexual abuse and molestation, as well as robberies where women are seen as easy targets.

The media like Kaieteur News, which has been bold in exposing crimes, have to be in the forefront of combating abuse against women.

Unfortunately, it appears that the media have downplayed the problem of sexual abuse because not much about this social scourge has appeared in the pages of our two more popular dailies, Kaieteur News and Stabroek News. I do applaud Adam Harris for addressing the issue in his columns some time ago, but more coverage would highlight the need for action. I hope it is not a case of the dailies trying to cover up the abuse our female folk have been enduring at the hands of males.

I hear reports of victims swearing that reporters from both outlets were aware of incidents of sexual molestation as well as racist incidents because they were informed about them or by eyewitnesses to them and nothing was placed in the media. Victims of both sexual and racist abuse also claimed they gave interviews to reporters but their stories were not reported in the media. Females experienced unwanted sexual contact or an attempted sexual assault and were the victims of robberies, but got no media coverage. These women broke down sobbing and have suffered untold psychological scars.

In too many incidents, as revealed to me, at crowded places, particularly at bus parks, Stabroek Market and Bourda Market, females were groped or sexually molested. Also, several females (and males as well) were relieved of their belongings (cell phones, pocket books, watches, jewellery, etc) in daylight robberies with the police nearby doing nothing about the incidents.

Countless complaints of sexual harassment were reported to me as taking place often in the vicinity of a police presence in the Georgetown environs.

Also, some of the media allows themselves to be bystanders refusing to condemn or report on the behaviour of the criminals. We all have a moral obligation to speak up against sexual abuse, robberies, and racist behaviour. These acts must be condemned. Where are the women rights activists to speak out on the violations of our female folk? Action needs to be taken against the perpetrators to send a strong message that their behaviour is illegal and will not be tolerated.

The government has a moral and legal responsibility to protect the population. The Social Protection and Security Ministers need to work together to devise strategies to go after perverts and robbers who target ‘soft’ victims – start with crowded places with a heavy police presence and pick up the perverts and petty thieves and make examples of them.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

Editor’s note

It is clear that Mr Bisram has not read the Stabroek News in a long time, otherwise he could not have missed the many stories on girls and women who have been trafficked, sexually abused or sexually exploited that we have carried over the years. Furthermore, contrary to what he says, we will not refuse to publish a report where the victim herself speaks to us, and we have reason to believe the veracity of the account. When a report is written, however, we are invariably asked to withhold identity, which we always do. Like all responsible newspapers, we do not print second-hand accounts in such matters, as Mr Bisram appears to think we should.

Finally, even where a woman has been sexually assaulted during the course of a robbery, it is rare for the newspaper to be told about it, and if we are, it is not for reporting purposes.

The reason is obvious: the victims of robberies are identified by the police in their press releases, and such releases are reported by all the media. As said above, any woman who has suffered sexual assault during the course of a robbery almost always wants to remain anonymous in relation to that particular crime, but there can be no anonymity in circumstances where the family or the home have already been identified.

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