Different lives

For the year so far, at least seven men have been convicted of child rape, one pleaded guilty, at least one was acquitted and more than three have been charged. The ages of the children who were violated ranged from 6 to 15 years old at the time the crimes were committed. Except for those who were just charged, all the crimes were committed years ago; the oldest one dates back to 2010, the most recent to 2013.

Digest the fact these violated children would have waited between 5 and 8 years for justice. During this time, there would have been several court appearances, ongoing reliving of the horror, having testimony questioned under cross-examination and possibly being made to feel at fault for what occurred. Then consider the possibility that cases such as these are not being brought to trial in chronological order because of various delays or defence attorneys fighting to keep their clients out of court or prison; there are many other children still awaiting justice.

However, when one considers that children rarely disclose sexual abuse immediately after the event and that this is a society where blaming the victim is the norm, the fact that these many cases were successfully prosecuted is a step in the right direction. But there will be no handing out of kudos here. There is still too much that is wrong. It should also be noted here that although poverty is strongly associated with child sexual assault, it is equally prevalent in affluent societies across a wide range of religious and cultural backgrounds.

Among the cases concluded this year, was that against Colvin Norton who was found guilty on April 17 of the rape of a 6-year-old girl. The crime was committed twice in 2013, first on August 1 and then on August 6. He was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment and even if he serves all his time, he would still be under 50 years old when his term ends.  

On March 8, 55-year-old Colin Cummings was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being found guilty a week earlier of raping an 8-year-old girl. He must serve 25 years before being considered for parole.

On January 24, Rohan Daniels was sentenced to life in prison after he was convicted of raping a child twice: once when she was 10 years old and again when she was 12. This month, another man, Sheldon Lynch, was served a life sentence after he was convicted of repeatedly raping a child between December 2010 and January 2013. And earlier, on April 26, Trevone Anthony Giles, 31, was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for the rape of a 15-year-old girl. He had lured the child into his house in January 2016, by pretending to be a doctor.

Then there was Abdool Jamil, 66, who was found guilty just days ago of raping a 10-year-old girl twice in 2014. He is yet to be sentenced. Also awaiting sentencing is 20-year-old Delon Clementson who pleaded guilty on Monday last to raping a minor in 2013.

A common thread running through these cases is the requests by the various defence attorneys for probation reports on the convicts prior to sentencing and the acquiescence to these appeals by the judges. Clearly, the intent is to somehow use the probation reports in mitigation, but in a crime of rape? And more so, rape of a child? How does this even begin to make sense?

Regardless of what circumstances these convicts grew up in, whether they were bullied, ill-treated or what not, raping, fondling, making sexual overtures or advances, or grooming a child for sex are all heinous crimes that deserve the worst punishment possible. It boggles the mind that all the convicts listed above and others like them are not seen as what they are: paedophiles – adults who are sexually attracted to children. And sadly, no provisions are being made for when their prison sentences end. Their convictions point to their propensity, so what is being done to ensure they do not attempt or succeed in committing similar crimes again? Nothing.

Another fact that seemingly escapes those in authority is that children who are sexually violated completely lose their innocence and are forced to live different lives. In a series of studies of child sexual abuse survivors in several countries around the world, done between 2007 and this year, it was found that because of the communications between the brain and the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, psychological trauma such as child rape has long-term physical and mental consequences. The studies show that the physical consequences can include but are not limited to: damaged reproductive organs, widespread and chronic pain, insomnia as well as circulatory, digestive and respiratory problems.

Child sexual abuse affects not only the body of those affected, but their psyche as well. Survivors often suffer from depression, anxiety, dissociation, as well as sexual dysfunction. And while counselling helps, it is not a cure; in fact, there is nothing that can completely successfully treat such a violation. The child grows up and either gradually learns how to deal with it or doesn’t. Further, there is no predicting which child might overcome or succumb or when and how it will happen.

When, as it often happens, the abuser is a relative, close friend or neighbour of the child, the fallout is usually worse, and it would be bad enough if a stranger grabbed a child off the street and raped him or her. In short, a sick-minded person can wreck several lives for whatever brief pleasure, high, or feeling of power raping a minor brings him.

Globally, what is known about child sexual abuse is staggering. The available information includes: 20% of those abused are under the age of 8; 90% of them know their abusers; and sadly, that the number of juveniles who are preying on younger children is increasing. The suggestion is that they would likely have been abused also.

All crimes against children are horrible, but sexual abuse has to be the worst. As a country we should all be doing much more to protect our children from becoming part of these statistics.

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