MANY are the reasons why a victim of sexual assault may not come forward.
Some fear they will not be believed. Others are daunted by a criminal justice system plagued with delay. All of this is made worse when the perpetrator is a member of the protective services.
This is the backdrop against which we hold the puzzling position taken by Snr Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne at a media conference on Sunday to address a report which suggested a Venezuelan female had been raped by members of the Coast Guard in the vicinity of the Chaguaramas Heliport.
On the one hand, Ms Guy-Alleyne admonished the press for reporting on the case.
“Whenever victims or survivors of sexual or physical exploitation see these things plastered in the media, it puts a very negative effect on the law enforcement investigation and very little or nothing would be disclosed,” said the head of the Special Victims Department of the police service.
On the other hand, she noted prior inquiries into the matter and stated, “No sexual exploitation was disclosed at that location.”
But if there was no crime in evidence at the heliport, on what basis does Ms Guy-Alleyne think it appropriate to warn about the impact on victims?
What really discourages people from coming forward is when investigating bodies seem willing to discredit victims publicly, when fresh reports of abuse are treated with disdain and when officials act in a way that heightens fears of cover-ups and the closing of ranks.
Such fears have palpable outcomes.
As Ms Guy-Alleyne suggested, people simply chose not to say what they know.
In 2018, the Rape Crisis Society also noted a trend of victims not being believed by police officers and eventually giving up their complaints in frustration at a system dogged with delay and animosity.
From the perspective of accountability, the heliport appears to have fallen into a hellish gap in the State’s systems of oversight. We have been told the facility is not a detention centre.
Yet it is manned by the Defence Force and the police retain jurisdiction over reports of wrongdoing there, as do other agencies such as the Children’s Authority, as well as the court.
The phalanx of officials sent out by the Ministry of National Security on Sunday contrasted sharply with the dearth of information in relation not only to the case, but the systems in place at the heliport.
The fruit of all this are the conflicting reports of the woman initially being said to have “escaped” or “absconded” from the facility. So special is she, it seems, she became invisible and slipped through heliport cracks.
If only to dispel the cloud left hanging over the State in this matter, her complaint should be properly dealt with.