OPPOSITION senator Jayanti Lutchmedial believes girls who are victims of statutory rape in Trinidad and Tobago need greater support systems. She said too often, law enforcement and even the general public do not treat these children as victims.
She was speaking in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon after Independent Senator Paul Richards put forward a motion to find solutions to the issue of violence against women and girls.
She said strong support systems are not only crucial when the offence has just been committed, but “all through that matter until it is taken to court.”
She said this is especially important for what she calls the “under-16 and under-14-type cases. These are the cases where the victims don’t even know they are victims…
“We have many cases where young girls in this country, for many different reasons, engage in sexual activity with men without force – I should say 'not by consent,' because they don’t even know what consent is and they don’t even understand consent.”
She said this country’s attitude towards such victims can be seen often on social media when the police post missing-people reports for girls who are later found unharmed and safe.
“It’s almost like the country is disappointed…We take to whatever avenue to lambaste the girl, her family, saying things I don’t even want to repeat.
“The fact is, these girls who leave home, who are coaxed and engage in sexual activity with men who are ultimately charged – they have very deep-seated issues…They are experiencing poverty, they are experiencing feelings of being unwanted and unloved. So they jump at the opportunity, sometimes, for older men who are providing financial benefits or just that feeling of love and attention they lack at home…They are experiencing insecurity, bullying at home, and that way the attention helps them.”
She said in her opinion, these types of victims are the most neglected and do not receive adequate counselling.
“When a woman is raped in the course of a robbery or something – yes, she gets counselling and gets medical attention and so on. But these girls who leave home and are subsequently found, and it’s found out that they have engaged in sexual activity – and I shouldn’t even be saying engaged in, they have been raped by older men who have been charged and brought before the court – no one takes them on…No one looks at whether or not they are so hypersexual because they have themselves been victims of abuse.”
Because of this, she said, many cases do not result in the “predators” being convicted. She said those men target girls who are insecure and/or seeking financial assistance.
“People make jokes all the time and say (to lure) those girls, all you have to do is give them a box of KFC…Well let me tell you something, when you and your siblings and everyone else in your home starving, a box of KFC looks really, really good from an older man who is a predator. And that’s what I think is happening to a lot of our young girls in this country.”
She said more systems need to be put in place for them and “a little more attention” given to them.