HEAD of the Centre for the Investigations of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Senior Superintendent Maldria Jones Williams is urging people who are victims of sexual abuse to make reports to the police within 72 hours of the incident.
“Because that is the time period within which physical evidence is most accessible. We also have to take into consideration antiretrovirals if the person requires those. We also have to take into consideration if the person requires emergency contraceptives, which is most effective in 72 hours.
“We have an in-house doctor at our facilities but if the doctor is not available, we have an arrangement with the Kingston and St Andrew Health Department. Outside of that, the police would take the person to a public hospital. After the medical we do some form of referral for psychosocial assistance,” Jones Williams said on Wednesday during a panel discussion at banner event to mark the recent commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
The event was organised by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport and was themed, ‘From Response to Preparedness: Eliminating Gender-based violence in Jamaica’.
According to Jones Williams, there are numerous challenges that affect investigations into allegations of sexual abuse with some victims taking years to report the matter to the police for different reasons.
“The first major challenge is delay. We find that a lot of victims are hesitant in coming to us. That delay reduces our ability to collect evidence and respond. Some victims come years after. We have a case that is over 30 years old. There is no statute of limitation when it comes on to sexual offences.
“I cannot give an explanation as to why this individual would come forward after 30 years but at this point in time the individual feels strongly enough about the matter to come forward. The alleged perpetrator is actually up in age. In some instances, the victims share information with other individuals which would form part of our evidence gathering. Our approach is always victim-centred,” said Jones Williams.
“We do what we need to do in terms of recording a statement, appreciating the report of the victim and ultimately conducting our investigations nonetheless. Many victims choose not to proceed for many reasons, some out of fear and sympathy. Most of the perpetrators are known to the victims. Some are relatives, close friends, lovers, and neighbours. Our procedure is to put the matter before the court and gave them the chance to tell the court that they no longer want to proceed. Our arrest rate is very high,” added Jones Williams.
The CISOCA head also pointed out that some people tell lies and hold back certain information when making reports.
She gave an example of a case where a 12-year-old girl accused a young man of sexually assaulting her in a bus in downtown Kingston. The young man gave the police a conflicting story to what the girl gave to them, which led cops to check the JamaicaEye camera surveillance network, which proved that the girl had given inaccuracies in her account.
“The police held on to the bus and held on to the [alleged] perpetrator and somebody else. In Half-Way-Tree there was the 12-year-old bouncing in the driver side of the bus. She stayed there for about 20 minutes and bounced back out, smiling and laughing and having a jolly good time. She got caught and couldn’t explain herself, so she made up a story and gave it to us. We have to do our due diligence,” said Jones Williams as she noted that another problem is that some cases move too slowly through the court system.
“There was a 14-year-old who was sexually assaulted and by the time she was 21, the matter was still before the courts. She went to college and moved on with their life. She couldn’t be bothered any more. We have quite a few victims who withdraw themselves and hide from us. Some of them migrate. Those are some of the issues we have in investigations,” added the CISOCA head.