Jamaica under scrutiny over sexual assaults of US tourists at top resorts

(JAMAICA GLEANER) Jamaica’s tourism sector has been left with the difficult task of trying to cauterise serious damage being done to its reputation, following an investigative story published in the international media, which outlined terrifying incidents of sexual assault on several United States tourists at some of the country’s leading resorts.

In a release yesterday, Jamaica’s tourism ministry said it was aware of the article, adding that it “strongly condemned these incidents of assault and all other crimes against visitors and citizens alike. We want the public to be assured that all cases that are identified, whether they are current or of a historic nature, are being given full attention because Jamaica is committed to maintaining a safe, secure and seamless destination.”

Titled ‘Resorts in Jamaica are facing a ‘historic’ sexual assault problem’, the article, documenting graphic details of the events, has been circulating on various traditional and social media platforms since yesterday. It was first published by the Free Press, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network.

Documenting cases that took place over several years, among other things, the report indicated that 78 US citizens were raped in Jamaica between 2011 and 2017, according to State Department statistics.

Some of the victims, which were outlined in the article, include a mentally handicapped woman in her 20s; an Indiana mother who was gang-raped by three Cuban soccer players in a resort bathroom stall; a 20-year-old woman raped by two men in her hotel; two Detroit mothers raped at gunpoint in their room; and a Kent County teenager and her 21-year-old friend who were gang-raped by lifeguards in a locked laundry room at the resort where they were staying.

PARALYSED WITH FEAR

In the article, a young lady from Ingham County named Paiton said that in May 2015, she was surprised by her mother with a trip to Jamaica for her 21st birthday.

According to the article, for four days, Paiton thoroughly enjoyed the all-inclusive resort, until the last night of her trip, when three hotel lifeguards lured her into a locked laundry room and each one raped her.

“I froze up. I was completely paralysed with fear,” the now-24-year-old Paiton said in the article. “The one thing that really still stands out is being left in that room alone, and my mom finding me. … I thought that I had done something wrong.”

The United States Department of State has issued several travel advisory warnings, stating that sexual assaults occur frequently in Jamaica, even at all-inclusive resorts.

In addition to the safety of its citizens, however, the article indicated that the US State Department was even more concerned about Jamaica’s inability to do anything about the problem, noting that the Jamaica Constabulary Force is considered “underpaid, poorly trained and understaffed.”

“Reporting crime can seem archaic,” the State Department has stated. “And the confusing, lengthy process is widely believed to be a waste of time,” The article said.

In the statement from Jamaica’s tourism ministry, it said, “Jamaica prides itself in our record of being hospitable to over 20 million tourists who have visited over the past seven years. Jamaica also has a world leading and very high repeat visitor rate of 42 per cent, with an extremely low rate of crime against our visitors.”