St. John’s Antigua- Police statistics show that incidents of rapes doubled over the last year, a development Executive Director at the Directorate of Gender Affairs Sheila Roseau calls disturbing.
In 2010 the law enforcement division recorded eight rapes and the following year that figure jumped to 16.
“We’re not pleased with that at all because our aim here is to reduce the number, to eliminate … and our work here is to do just that and to have an increase is just not (good),” Roseau told The Daily OBSERVER. “So our mission for this year is to continue to work very closely with the police.
“We will continue to promote public awareness. We will continue to provide a professional service so that more persons can report the cases; the more cases are reported the more the police can be able to piece the cases together and solve the crime,” Roseau added.
She said during 2010 especially, Gender Affairs co-ordinated with the police on a number of training initiatives. Through such collaborations, officers have been able to increase their skills in dealing effectively with sexual offence cases.
“Early in December we had one who spent a week at Scotland Yard’s Serious Sexual Offences Unit on an exchange programme, which was funded by the British High Commission and we also had two who visited police training in Ottawa, Canada for two weeks,” Roseau said. “So we are working very closely with officers from the Sexual Offences Unit so that they can build their capacity, increase their skills and to be able to deal effectively with these cases.”
Back in November of 2010, the minister with responsibility for Gender Affairs, Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, announced the coming of a sexual assault referral centre. The facility will offer medical care, counselling, legal advice and other support.
When asked for an update on the centre, the Gender Affairs director said it would be established through a phase approach.
“We have been working in order for it to be operationalised,” she said. “There are various processes to it in terms of getting it off the ground.
“Basically, we had partnered with Mount St John’s Hospital, where they’d actually offered us a room there … providing that one-stop shop approach, so that when a case is reported it’s only one place (rape survivors) would have to go so that the service would come to them rather than they go to the service. But what we have to do now is train the nurses. And we’re proud to say we have 18 nurses who had been trained and we are now working towards their certification…”
She said it’s not a complicated process but a costly one which would involve sexual assault nurses accumulating hours of practical work with district medical examiner (who examines the sexual assault survivors).
“Once the hours are built up, they’ll do an examination and they’ll be come registered, certified, forensic nurse examiners,” Roseau said. “So we’re at that stage and because of the funding for it and the hours that it requires for them to accumulate, we’re at that stage. We’re hoping in the next few months, we should be up and running fully, because it’s very much needed.”
Meantime, Head of the Criminal Investigation Department Superintendent Nuffield Burnette addressed how investigations are proceeding for sexual offences.
“We were able to charge a number of persons for rape and sexual offences. So while we are showing a lot we have solved a lot,” he said.