Our press conference held in the Eastern Cemetery was a great success with excellent media coverage and good support from volunteers and supporters.
Published On:Wednesday, September 30, 2009
By MEGAN REYNOLDS
Tribune Staff Reporter
A NUMBER of changes to the criminal justice system were called for by the Crisis Centre yesterday as it commemorated the Day to End Sexual Violence.
Director of the non-profit counselling service centre Dr Sandra Dean-Patterson highlighted the need for systematic changes to help protect victims of sexual abuse in a country where the incidence of sexual crime far exceeds the worldwide average.
The United Nations recorded 133 rapes per 100,000 people in the Bahamas in 2007, compared to an average of 15 per 100,000 worldwide.
In the decade leading up to 1999 there were 3,000 individuals in the Bahamas who reported crimes of a sexual nature, Dr Patterson said. She compared this to the number of sex offenders convicted and serving prison time – a lowly 150.
And it seems sexual violence is still hugely prevalent as there have been 4,114 reported rapes so far this decade, including 80 rapes reported this year, as well as 26 attempted rapes, 174 incidents of unlawful sex with someone under 16, and 15 cases of incest.
Dr Patterson said: “I am sure if you went to the prison you would find there is around the same number of sex offenders.
“The reality is that persons who are sexually violent do not get convicted or go to prison, so as long as you can walk around and commit offences without consequences there is no reason to stop doing it. And it is the women and children who are predominantly victims in this.”
Speaking out with supporters on the Day to End Sexual Violence, the Crisis Centre called for:
* A Voluntary Bill of Indictment in sexual offence trials
* Establishment of a court specifically for sexual offences
* The use of plea bargaining in selected cases
* Implementation of a sexual offender police registry and supervision orders for released offenders
* Legislation to incorporate as offences sexual touching and grooming to allow for special protection for children
* Creation of sex offender treatment programmes in prison and in probation rehabilitation services.
The proposals won support from Kingdom Women in Business, the Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH), The Bahamas Against Sexual Violence and Child Abuse, and PLP MP Alfred Sears. Mr Sears explained how it is important for people in the community to do what they can to eliminate sexual abuse by mentoring children who are at risk.
Dr Patterson said that anyone who wishes to volunteer in their community should call the Crisis Centre on 328-0922 or log on to the Crisis Centre website http://www.bahamascrisiscentre.org.