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JAM | Sep 5, 2023

Leo Gilling | Resilient child development is essential

/ Our Today

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Leo Gilling

Of the countries globally, and with the 2010 national report of rapes, Jamaica ranks 22nd with 24
rape incidents per 100,000 citizens. The JCF recorded approximately 6,600 rape incidents between 2011 and 2020, with about 3,250 clear up. (The clear-up rate refers to all cases disposed of from the court’s active records (guilt, innocence, dismissed, or thrown out) divided by the total cases presented for that period). In that period, 2012 recorded the highest number of 948 incidents of rape.

This article was written on the background of a video recently released by Queen Ifrica, who announced that her biological father sexually assaulted her. That is called incest. Eve for Life (EFL) has reported that incest is islandwide, but the hot spots are in three parishes: Westmoreland, St Ann, and St Thomas. These statistics include children reported by the Jamaica Observer, where 36 of 46 complainants in the Trelawny Circuit Court are child sexual offences. It should be understood that these numbers are only the ones the police know about; many situations are unreported.


The United Nations Women – Caribbean defined rape as when a man has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent, knowing she does not consent or is reckless about whether she consents. Each country has its own continuum of sexual violence; the rape statistics above would be completely different in Jamaica if measured against the definition of rape in the United States.

For example, rape, defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, is “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The new definition has not restricted the victim to women or penis penetrations; but rather projecting body parts, objects, etc. The rape of a child is a whole different matter and is treated as though thr perpetrators committed an act of treason.

According to the SOA of 2009, Part 2, Subsection 3: defined rape as “A man commits the offence of rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman a) without the woman’s consent and b) knowing that the woman does not consent to sexual intercourse or recklessly not caring whether the woman consents or not.” This definition focused only on a man having nonconsensual sex with a woman.

In recent years, The Leo Gilling Show featured several women who alleged incest and sexual abuse by fathers, grandfathers, cousins, and other family members: https://www.youtube.com/live/tju93l4JXrA?si=0YmjTHmq6l1WrxX9. Their stories are consistent with women in other countries such as Canada, where two-fifths of all victims (41 per cent) were assaulted by an acquaintance, 10 per cent by a friend, 28 per cent by a family member, and a stranger victimised the remaining 20 per cent. More than half of the sexual assaults against adults (52 per cent) and youth between 12 and 17 years of age (58 per cent) were committed by friends and acquaintances.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 73 per cent of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, 28 per cent by an intimate partner, and 7.0 per cent by a victim’s relative. At the same time, in the U.S., 92.1 per cent of sexual abuse offenders were men, 51.6 per cent were White, 21.7 per cent were Black.

Annan Boodram, a Caribbean writer, noted that it is a significant challenge for Jamaica and the
Caribbean to access the exact statistics of sexual violence. That is because patriarchal beliefs,
power, and control continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence, and rape,
are pervasive and normalized. He said “culture” is perpetuated with misogynistic language,
objectification of bodies, and glamorisation of violence.

As boys, you see and hear things. We were taught life lessons that we later found utterly wrong.
But our innocence versus the apparent teacher/student relationship made it almost impossible to
make the right decision. Whether the teachers (our elders) knew what they were doing or just
passing along things they learned themselves didn’t matter. Social learning is the way of life in a
country without jobs or positive activities. So boys learned socially.

These learnings began with simple words and thoughts. Words and thoughts convinced young boys that it’s okay to commit injustice against young girls and women, young girls, probably aged nine to twelve, on the cusp of puberty. We were accustomed to learning to be silent, that everything was alright. Our adult male models were in control.

The narrative and the learning were, in essence, social teachers-: “Even if it seems wrong, it’s not. De woman dem want it. When dem fight back, dem just a pretend that they don’t want it.” These were actual words in discussions with older men who came to best after a wrongful encounter against a woman. As boys, we were taught to be silent. We would not want to be called tattle-tellers or informers. The culture was “sworn to secrecy.” In that learning, we were expected to protect the information, preserve the act, and include it in our own lives as we grew up. Doing the opposite was against the norms. It’s similar for women who are scared of reporting sexual violence, fear of not being heard or further punished.

It’s time now, though, to release some of those words. They weren’t grumblings; they were real.: “Dah one deh ready fi a buss,” implying that a young lady starting puberty is ready for adult sex. The other is “she ready fi di cutting table.” As if women are pieces of meat and man is the butchers, she is ready for adult sex. , showing signs of puberty. The phrases indicate that it’s time for them to have sex with the men.

Many of the social teachers have now died; some are older and not active, and some are still very active. However, they have taught many other boys that we see in our communities committing rape and sexual assault against women.

Child abuse

In conclusion, these abuses should stop. But it will only if our governments plan for today and the future. The term is “resilience” to help our future generations. We need to train the “resilient child.” Early childhood is open for growth. Resilient child development is essential; it helps them overcome obstacles, recover from setbacks, and find joy in life. It comes from encouraging intentional emotional and social activities that teach them to speak up and speak out, be aware of self and environment, show empathy, be honest and sincere, and take responsibility for ill actions.

It requires the Ministry of Education to have complete responsibility for early childhood learning. Normal children worldwide are engaged in formal learning from a much earlier age than the Jamaican education system is willing to admit. The infant school concept and number of students at that age should be the opposite of what is currently in practice. Basic schools now outnumber infant schools, approximately 2700 to 300. The early childhood education system needs at least another 2,700 professionally paid teachers and building conducive to learning at this level.

Finally, men have the role of assisting in the effort to change this cultural error. Historically, enslaved Black people had a lot of help in the move to abolition and emancipation of White political leaders. The enslaved did not abolish slavery on their own. They needed the skills of White men in positions of power to fight the political fight and get the bills in place. In the same way, more of our male leaders are needed to advance the fight against sexual violence against girls and women and set an example for our youth to adopt the right attitudes toward others.

These suggestions should be a primary focus of our Ministry of Education and male leaders. The benefits may take time, but the difference will show in our society in years to come.

Leo Gilling is a Jamaican diaspora strategist and advocate. He is also chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network


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