By Naicelis Rozema-Elkins
It is about time, past due in fact, that the problem of sexual assault by teachers in our school system is addressed. However, as a society, it is important to acknowledge that this is no surprise. Cases of rape and sexual assault do not only occur in our schools, but also in our government, our law enforcement agencies and other institutions whose mandate is to protect the people they serve or have direct authority over. What is different this time is the severity, in terms of the length of time and number of survivors of the alleged sexual predation.
Ruel Johnson, the person highlighting the alleged crimes, is a government official. I am not a fan of Mr. Johnson, due to an unsavory experience with him, but it is commendable that someone in a position of power in our government has chosen to publicise the alleged crimes of Mr. Coen Jackson. Here, the word “alleged” is problematic because it could be interpreted by survivors as a disbelief of their experiences at the hands of abusers. At the same time, the word is necessary as it is representative of the public’s trust and belief in the incorruptibility of the law. Unfortunately, for this same reason, it is also necessary to ask: is it official government philosophy to bring swift justice only when it affects them?
As a woman and a former teacher forged in Guyana, I welcome any and all investigations of sexual abuse. With deep respect and apologies to those impacted, I hope that future public and official concern is more effective. It is outrageous that there is only public discourse on social offences and injustices when the crimes become abnormally barbaric. The next critical questions are, how far are we going to take this? Will this uproar result in a national effort to change policies and public attitudes?….