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In war on crime, caution is key

The murder rate has dropped drastically since the declaration last month of a State of Emergency and the imposition of a curfew in crime hot spots. But it has also become apparent that some other categories of crime have not seen a comparable decrease.

In the past week, several reports of rape have featured in the news.

In the first, masked men broke into a Longdenville house during curfew hours and raped a 49-year-old mother and her 17-year-old daughter, as well as robbing the family.

On Tuesday a 14-year-old schoolgirl of Claxton Bay was gang-raped by four boys she knew while she was on her way home from school.

In another incident, a physically disabled 16-year-old, a student at a special school, was abducted and raped in San Fernando after getting into a taxi.

Before the Longdenville attack, police spokesperson ASP Joanne Archie offered advice to women on how to avoid rape. She urged them to be more aware, to avoid "presenting a victim profile," and to be wary when travelling by taxi.

Much of ASP Archie's advice, however well meant, might have the unfortunate effect of implying that women are somehow at fault and are putting themselves in harm's way if they fail to take these precautions. This advice, moreover, would have been of little use in any of the situations described above.

None of the victims in last week's incidents was doing anything that could or should have been described as risky behaviour. In the first, the mother and daughter were securely—as they thought—inside their own home, with their family, in the middle of the night. What more could they possibly have done to keep themselves safe?

The Claxton Bay victim was walking home in broad daylight.

The San Fernando schoolgirl was physically challenged and thus could not help "presenting a victim profile".

In addition, all too often precautions such as those advocated by ASP Archie are of no use because the attacker is not a stranger encountered outside the home. He may be an acquaintance, a close family member or a partner.

The fact is, rapists are otherwise ordinary men who have the misguided view that all women are fair game.

How old their victims are, what they look like, what they are wearing and what they are doing makes no difference.

The burden of responsibility for rape should be placed squarely on the shoulders of rapists, not their victims.

In an era of rising crime levels, everyone needs to be careful. But in a society where women receive the respect that is their due, they should not need to be any more wary than men.

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