Victims of crime need counselling Editorial
Stabroek News
June 17, 2004

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Last week bandits invaded the home of an Albouystown family, terrorised them, took whatever they wanted and before they left one of them brutally raped a pregnant mother. This woman has been left traumatised and shocked by the event and also has to come to terms with the need to take an HIV test. In the backdrop of the HIV scourge, every rape becomes a possible case of attempted murder if the perpetrator is HIV positive. So today's rape victim doesn't only have to deal with the gut-wrenching psychological, emotional and physical trauma of rape but also the prospect that her attacker has infected her with an incurable, life-threatening disease.

This particular outrage is the continuation of a series since the jail-break of 2002 when depraved bandits set upon the country and committed the most dehumanising acts on their fellow Guyanese. This, of course, had its sequel in the emergence of the death squads and their own depraved rampage.

But rape during banditry and other forms of sexual humiliation and abuse took on a character of their own. In homes along the East Coast, based on reports received, bandits drew perverse satisfaction in committing rapes, stripping, fondling and sexual taunting. Numerous families were left ashamed and bewildered by this type of abuse on top of not knowing for certain if they would survive these brutal ordeals.

If that weren't enough, hundreds of children had to live through seeing their parents being beaten before their eyes and in some cases murdered. In other cases parents had to beg for their and their children's lives and the children themselves had to implore the bandits to spare them. The enormous psychological burden that these children are carrying and the scarring on their everyday lives must be unbearable. Their cocoon of security and safety in their homes has been ripped away.

And then there are numerous adults who were mercilessly beaten within inches of their lives and to whom security and peace of mind are now relative concepts. These people carry physical scars and, in many cases, the anguish of heads of households who feel that they failed in securing their families and themselves. It is not a burden easily mitigated.

These problems are compounded by the ongoing fears among citizens that the security situation is very fragile and there could be a rapid deterioration and return to the days after the jail-break. Every day they are haunted in some way by this paralysing fear. While the East Coast had been particularly affected, other communities across the country were also severely disrupted including Georgetown, parts of Berbice and the East Bank of Demerara.

As a result, we continue today to be a nation of the walking wounded. Many of our people have been inflicted with traumas that they are unable to cope with and will bury in the deep recesses of their minds until they can bear it no longer. Who knows how these traumas will be manifested or played out in public life?

It is high time that the government which was entrusted with providing security for its citizens and which failed in this task during the period of brutalisation begins providing counselling to families which are no doubt still affected. It would not be enough if the perpetrators of the crimes were brought to justice so that the victims could begin the healing process. But even this comfort is unavailable to victims as the solution rate for these crimes is extremely low.

Not much has been heard about the efforts of the Ministry of Human Services in relation to counselling and support for victims. Occasionally, officials of the ministry are seen in photographs comforting or providing support to a victim here or a victim there but nothing structured or comprehensive. Sometimes, too, it appears to be a reactive effort on the part of the ministry to appear to be doing something especially where other groups have stepped in and provided support.

Perhaps the ministry should arrange a meeting of all groups which would be interested in providing counselling to victims of crime and to begin to map out how this could be done. This is something that the State should foot the bill for and take seriously on board.

Victims of crimes, like the woman in Albouystown, are experiencing tremendous pain and trauma and require professional help and care.