Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean – are We Doing Enough?

Sexual Abuse in the Caribbean – are we doing enough? The Caribbean is plagued with many issues such as unemployment and poverty.However, the rise in sex crimes, in particular those involving children, is troubling.

This disturbing trend is of grave concern due to the disastrous effects of sexual assault on a victim. Many survivors battle feelings of depression and thoughts of suicide for long periods of time after being abuse, often suffering from post traumatic stress disorder – a condition often associated with veterans returning from war, now common among survivors of abuse. In addition, survivors may have to live with sexually transmitted diseases they have contracted from the perpetrators.

In our society, many factors influence survivors who may be contemplating reporting an incident of sexual violence. According to the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN), 93 percent of juvenile victims know the perpetrator and, as a result, many of them are reluctant to report the crime. Also, more often than not, the court of public opinion questions the credibility of the individual alleging the abuse, often questioning the victim’s manner of dress and lifestyle when a report is made. This usually creates feelings of isolation, shame and guilt that can intimidate other survivors who may refuse to report the incident and seek help.

Sexual abuse is a crime that can affect a person’s ability to keep up with the demands of daily life.  It is crucial that everyone, regardless of their age, gender or sexual orientation, seek and receive professional help in coping with abuse. Support in the form of counseling is a great form of intervention. Unfortunately, in the Caribbean, counseling is not a popular trend. It is not uncommon to encounter people who believe that counseling is only for the mentally ill, when, in actuality, it is recommended for anyone who is experiencing difficulties in life and feels the need to seek guidance during that period of distress. After all, when you think about it, seeking advice from a close friend on a troubling issue is a form of counseling, as informal as it may be.

Professional counseling has the same objective, this time with an experienced individual who would be able to advise you accordingly and even point you in the direction of various resources that can assist you. Sadly, due to the feelings of shame and guilt that often follow sexual abuse, such incidents frequently remain unreported and not every survivor will receive the help they need in order to cope.

However, for those survivors who are seeking help, there are organizations within the Caribbean region that can be used. Each country has a government department under the portfolio of a relevant ministry that provides this service to the general public. There are also Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’S) such as the St. Lucia Crisis Center, which also provides assistance.

One can only hope that in due time negative thinking and attitudes toward sexual abuse and   counseling would have changed, allowing survivors everywhere to heal fully from the effects of the abuse so that they could be able to create and maintain healthy relationships.

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