Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson recently commented on the increase in sexual offences in 2012.
Wisely, he sought to reassure the public that there was no increase in rapes. He attributed the increase in sex crimes to sexually active 14-to 16-year-old girls who would be reported missing when they run away to their boyfriends. Reports of sexual activity among these girls who are below the age of sexual consent would then be recorded as sexual offences.
But here is no evidence to support the assumption that all or even most of these cases represent consensual sexual activity. A much more likely explanation for the observed increase in sexual offences is the increased reporting of child sexual abuse (CSA).
CSA is defined as any sexual activity between an adult or older child and a person under the age of 16 years (18 years in the new Children's Authority Act), where the child is used for sexual gratification.
The Break the Silence project is a community action research initiative to increase awareness of child sexual abuse, and empower individuals to respond appropriately. This was conducted between 2007 and 2012 and confirmed the commonly held notion that child sexual abuse is prevalent.
The increased awareness of CSA through this project, the associated community public marches, billboards, and other consciousness-raising activities has been followed by increased reporting of abuse by victims and their relatives to the police, and an increase in media reports.
Child sexual abuse is a common and serious problem in our society and needs to receive the full attention of all, including the Police Service.
Dr Sandra Reid
Break the Silence