Monday 11 November, 2019

Murders, shooting of female minors jump sharply over the last 5 years

14-year-old Raven Wilson was found dead with her body stuffed in a plastic bag in St Ann's Bay on October 21, 2018.

14-year-old Raven Wilson was found dead with her body stuffed in a plastic bag in St Ann's Bay on October 21, 2018.

Major acts of violence, including murder and shootings, committed against female minors in Jamaica have risen sharply over the last five years.

Official statistics released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) revealed that the number of murders has doubled from six cases in 2014, to 13 in 2018.

This trend is also mirrored in the number of shootings, which jumped 77 per cent from 18 cases in 2014 to 32 in 2018.

Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon-Harrison has urged heightened vigilance by parents and community members in protecting the nation's children from harm, in light of recent attacks and mishaps involving several youngsters.

"Though there have been no studies that have been done to zero in on the reasons for the increases in violence against girls under 17 years, this may simply be a reflection of what's happening in the society at large. Also, sometimes younger persons make easier targets," Gordon-Harrison told Loop News reporter Claude Mills.

There was some good news, however, as cases of rape fell from 413 in 2014, to 294 in 2018, while aggravated assault plummeted from 25 in 2014 to 11 in 2018. Other assaults plunged from 435 in 2014 to 230 in 2018.

Robbery and the category of other sexual offences also experienced significant declines. 

Data from the Jamaica Crime Observatory Integrated Crime and Violence Information System for the period of 2011-2015 for the parishes of Westmoreland, Hanover, St Mary, St Ann, Manchester, St James, Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine and Clarendon suggested that females in the pre-teen to teenage group were the primary victims of sexual assault. Available data from the previously mentioned source showed that in 2015, females under 10 were disproportionately at risk of being sexually assaulted.

A candlelight vigil for the life of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis of Arnett Gardens, St Andrew, who was brutally murdered in the community in August 2018. 

CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

A recent Ministry of Health-commissioned study, the Knowledge, Attitude, Belief and Practice (KABP) report, revealed that nearly 15 per cent of all women in Jamaica, aged 15 to 49, who have ever married or partnered, have experienced physical or sexual violence from a male partner in the previous 12 months.

This was revealed by Health Minister, Dr Christopher Tufton as he addressed a public forum on gender-based violence last year at the Terra Nova Hotel in St Andrew. The minister cited statistics that suggested that the most prevalent violent acts experienced by women are: being pushed or shoved (17.7 per cent); being slapped or having something thrown at them that could inflict harm (16.8 per cent); and being hit with a fist or something that could cause harm (15.6 per cent).

He noted that 3.7 per cent of the respondents reported being afraid of what their abuser would do if they refused to have sexual intercourse.

But what can be done to combat this culture of violence?

One psychologist mused: "School is the place where the culture of violence can be rolled back, and the culture of peaceful mediation be highlighted and put into practice. This will necessitate some retraining of teachers, who would incorporate mediation into the curriculum."

"The culture of violence is embedded within our society. It seems to be endemic. If we are to roll it back, there has to be a sustained or collaborative effort that targets our children, as they are the next adult generation, while at the same time, sensitise the public at large about how to resolve problems without resorting to violence," Gordon-Harrison said.

Children's Advocate, Diahann Gordon Harrison.

DECLINE IN CRIME AGAINST WOMEN

Despite the rash of recent high-profile incidents in which several women have been shot and killed, official statistics released by the JCF suggest that major crimes committed against women have been trending down since 2017.

Murders committed against women reached a historical high in 2017, when 160 women were killed. That number fell to 129 in 2018.

Cases involving shooting reached a high of 329 in 2017, but fell to 240 in 2018.

Cases of rape reached a high of 723 in 2014, fell to 500 in 2017, and fell marginally to 496 in 2018.

In another major category, aggravated assault cases reached a high of 156 in 2014, before declining to 99 cases in 2017, and rising slightly to 100 in 2018.

Other categories of assaults reached a staggering high of 2,610 in 2014, before falling to 1,363 in 2017, and further declining to 1,297 in 2018.

Cases of robbery and sexual offences also fell from a high of 1,396 in 2014, to 665 cases in 2018, while other sexual offences plummeted from 624 in 2014 to 398 in 2018.

Some believe the numbers are deceptively low because of the imposition of state of emergency powers in key violence-prone areas. But whatever the reason, the headlines in the nation's newspapers represent a situation which is still quite scary for the average female in Jamaica.

"I am generally very concerned about how vulnerable women are in our society," Gordon-Harrison said.

On June 10, 2019, there was a double murder in Duhaney Park, St Andrew, involving two sisters who were shot dead execution-style.

On July 28, a woman and her daughter were murdered at their home in the community of Eltham Park in Spanish Town, St Catherine. They were identified as 37-year-old Winsome Williams and her 23-year-old daughter, Daniella Carnegie, otherwise called ‘Bun’.

On September 13, two women, a mother and a daughter, including 31-year-old attorney-at-law Sashakay Fairclough, were shot in Brook Green in Ocho Rios, St Ann. Fairclough was hit multiple times in the upper body, while her mother was shot in the abdomen.

Physical violence is not the only major concern among women, as in a previous address, Tufton painted a stark picture of systemic sexual violence against women, an area where criminal experts say cases go largely unreported for fear of recriminations or ostracisation.

“Women who are the victims of sexual violence in particular, we know, are more vulnerable to HIV infection, given that HIV transmission risk increases in violent or forced-sex scenarios,” Tufton said in a speech last year.

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