By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A WOMEN’S rights advocate wants society to stop placing the blame on young vulnerable girls being lured out of their homes and becoming victims of statutory rape and hold the men responsible accountable for their actions.
Alicia Wallace, director of Equality Bahamas, told The Tribune yesterday there needed to be an open dialogue on the issue of the rape culture, one that informs and addresses sexual violence in its entirety.
Her comments came after Police Commissioner Paul Rolle revealed on Monday that the majority of the people reported missing in 2020 were adolescent females “engaging in sexual intercourse”.
However, his remarks raised eyebrows in some quarters considering the fact that, according to the law, minors are incapable of giving their consent to sex with adults.
By legal definition, crimes that involve sexual contact with a person who is underage is called statutory rape. The age of consent for heterosexual relationships is 16 while it is 18 for same-sex relations.
Noting there seems to be a common misconception about statutory rape victims in The Bahamas, Ms Wallace said there needed to be greater focus placed on the men “preying on our young girls”.
She also called on police officers to crack down on these perpetrators who may have a history of targeting underaged females.
She said: “We often see that people blame girls for what happens to them. We see the cases pop up, we see the flyers being circulated asking for help with finding girls, minors, people who are under the age of 18.
“And a lot of the social commentary around it is ‘why bother? She’ll come home over the weekend. She probably by man’ and people behave as though these girls are at the age of consent when they’re not.”
She added: “They cannot legally give consent and we’re ignoring the fact that the people who are engaging them and the people who are luring them out of their homes are adult men and these men, as far as we can tell, aren’t being held accountable.
“(These men) know who has little money and who might be motivated by money and they know who may see their bodies as the only way to survive. These are predators and these are people who practice it and no one is safe from it.
“Why do you think they happen to find people who are 16 or 14? Do you think that they were not building these relationships years ago and were waiting? This is sexual grooming.”
Ms Wallace also said there needed to be more support given to vulnerable victims and also called for more research done into why female teenagers are leaving their homes.
She questioned: “What are the conditions in the home where the girls are leaving? What is the promise that is being made to them? Are they in need of certain financial resources that men are saying that they will provide? How involved are other family members in what’s happening to the girls?”
“And which organisations, meaning NGO’s, churches, after school programmes are actually paying attention and responding to the real needs of people in this country so that they’re not running to predators and people who tell them ‘I can help you and your families’ or ‘I can help you to access meals everyday, but here’s what you have to do for me?’
“It’s an exchange and it’s not a fair exchange. These are cases of sexual violence. These are cases of rape. These girls cannot give consent and we consistently come down on them and they are in the wrong.”
According to data released by the Royal Bahamas Police Force, there were 100 missing reports filed last year. Of those figures, the police chief said, 88 of those required no further actions from officers, but added that 11 cases are still being investigated.