Mixed message

Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds who is presiding over the judge-only trial of two men charged for 
murdering Sean Luke.  -
Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds who is presiding over the judge-only trial of two men charged for murdering Sean Luke. -

IN SENTENCING a Tunapuna man for raping two girls in 2014, Justice Lisa Ramsumair-Hinds on Thursday sent some mixed messages.

On the one hand, the judge was pellucidly clear about the problem of child abuse in this country.

“Leave the girls alone,” she said. “A message must be sent by sentencing judges.”

But the judge also played into the problem of victim blaming which seems to remain rampant in our society.

She said grown hard-back men ought to know better in relation to sexual intercourse with children, “despite their immaturity, their infatuations and their underdeveloped awareness of their sexuality and how ‘forward’ they may seem.”

How “forward” someone may seem has nothing to do with consent. Too often, a woman is blamed whenever she is violated. Somehow, she always “asked for it,” whether through her manner of dress or her lifestyle choices.

The very case the judge presided over, which involved a man raping his two nieces who were 12 and 15 at the time, is a perfect example of this.

Upon being arrested, the man, who later apologised and said he made a mistake, told police in no uncertain terms: “They wanted it.”

Such declarations are frequently made by rapists who do so confident in the knowledge that in our society it is very easy to say it was the woman’s fault.

But it’s not just Adam who blamed Eve for his sins.

Women and society as a whole parrot the tropes that result in irreparable harm, generating a sense of impunity that emboldens men to abuse and dissuades victims from coming forward.

“People said it was my fault,” said one of the victims in this case, who was a virgin when the rape took place.

What makes this particular case particularly egregious is that it involved a trusted family member.

The judge’s sense of indignation, therefore, is completely understandable and not entirely misplaced. Because so many problems in our society are not being addressed well enough (and in some cases our leaders are actually making things worse with their damaging rhetoric), the role judges play in speaking up is vital.

But the court’s order in relation to the sex offender website and the assailant having to report to a police station upon release point to the limits of judicial remedies.

The judge, who was seized of the intimate facts of this case, simply implored men to behave, but in some cases it’s not as easy as just buffing a man and hoping for the best.

The prevalence of repeat offenders in our criminal court system is a sign that there is often a complex psychology behind many cases. We’re not sure there are enough agencies looking into these dynamics and addressing the plight of victims.


"Mixed message"

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