Sex violence highest against girls 12 to 16
-GHRA study finds
Stabroek News
March 8, 2007

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A recent study has found that 69% of victims of sexual violence are 16 years old or below and that Amerindian girls between the ages of 12 and 16 years living in Region One are the most vulnerable group of females in Guyana.

The study, which was done by the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), also noted that Amerindian females in Region One are three times more vulnerable to sexual assault than females in Georgetown.

The study, released yesterday in time for International Women's Day being observed today, is titled 'Getting Serious: Detecting & Protecting Against Crimes of Sexual Violence in Guyana'. It is part of GHRA's campaign against sexual violence and it sought to test whether it is possible to develop characteristics of potential victims and likely predators in sexual violence crimes in Guyana by analyzing information contained in police files.

A release from GHRA said that through collaboration with the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) the study was able to determine that with appropriate computer software a national programme could be developed to systematically record such information.

However, the release said that while care must be taken to ensure that the process does not deteriorate into stereotyping or discrimination, if it is applied appropriately, the information generated will raise levels of detection in crimes of sexual violence.

"Moreover, the information also provides the foundation for developing effective protection programmes for girls and young women," the release said.

According to the release, 92% of the victims in cases examined during the study were female and it was found that 43% of the most vulnerable group was girls between the ages of 12 and 16 while girls between the ages of one and 12 are the second most vulnerable group. It was stated that 44% of sexual violence crimes reviewed were committed on Afro-Guyanese, followed by Indo-Guyanese with 27%, the mixed and Amerindian races, 13% each and Portuguese, 3%.

The report said 26% of victims were found in Georgetown and a further 20% in Region Four. Some 37% of sexual crimes against women over the age of 25 occur in Region Six. It was found that females in Region Ten are safer from sexual violence than anywhere else in Guyana with a prevalence of 3%.

Further, more than two-thirds of sexual violence crimes occur in the home of the victim or the accused, while perpetrators are known by victims in three out of four sexual violence cases.

And one in five perpetrators is related to the victim with fathers, stepfathers and father figures being responsible for over 67% of a family-related sexual violence. Fifty-three percent of persons accused were of Afro-Guyanese descent, 20% Indo-Guyanese, 11% of Amerin-dian descent and 15% mixed. The report said 54% of the perpetrators in the cases were employed, 38% unemployed and 8% were students. The report said 43% of the victims of rape make a report within 24 hours and 41% of the victims report to the police themselves. Sixty-six percent of victims first confide the incident to relatives and 92% of them were medically examined as a result of a report to the police. While 23% of rapes followed abduction, mainly by minibus operators, 53% occurred during the day, 40% at night and 8% both day and night.

There was no significant correlation between sexual violence offences and public festivals such as Mashramani and Christmas nor the use of drugs or alcohol by either the perpetrator or victim. The use of condoms during sexual violence acts was 3%.

Between the years 2000 and 2004, there were a total of 341 reported cases of rape, 66 cases of carnal knowledge and 482 cases of indecent assault.

The report said that because many factors influence the length of time taken to dispose of cases, there is no simple way of knowing how many of the cases went to trial, are still pending, or have been closed for various reasons. Because of time constraints, the study utilised files lodged at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and 120 case files were utilised which was approximately 13% of the number of cases generated over the previous five years. It was noted that while the number of cases were adequate for the purpose of the study, the selection of the cases was not completely random for reasons related to the manner in which the files are stored.

The cases were analysed by reference to a questionnaire containing 42 questions pertaining to profiles of victims and accused in the crimes.

The study pointed out that figures relating to prevalence of sexual violence offences against girls and young women as well as those relating to regions may be influenced by external factors, which encourage a higher level of reporting. "Thus the fact that cases reviewed suggest girls are more vulnerable than older women may be influenced by the fact that these crimes generate greater indignation and a higher level of reporting than crimes against older women. In the same vein, higher levels of sexual violence cases in Region One may also reflect higher levels of faith in the justice system in remote areas, than pertains in urban areas where frustration with the justice system inhibits reporting. Higher levels of reporting may also reflect a more positive image of the police in this region encouraging victims to make complaints," the study stated.

The study said each of the services, medical, legal, forensic and welfare interview the victim only to ascertain facts pertinent to the interest of the particular service. "The example prompts the question at what point is a victim-centred statement of the incident obtained. The answer, depressingly, is never," the study said.

The GHRA noted that its campaign to stop sexual violence against women was launched with a study on low conviction rates in 2005 and followed by another in 2006 titled, 'Justice for Rape Victims: Reform of Laws and Procedures in Guyana.'

It is expected to release another study shortly that explores the possibility of integrating the provision of services to avoid victims of sexual violence in Guyana having to find five to six unrelated service providers to attend to their legal, medical, welfare and psychological needs.