Opinion: More action needed regarding crimes against women & children | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

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by ‘Concerned Citizen’

Based on the annual crime statistics reported by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS), I think that the number and nature of crimes against women and children in the Cayman Islands are alarming. These crimes include domestic violence, civil disputes, rape, attempted rape, defilement of a girl under 12, defilement of a girl under 16, indecent assault, grooming, indecent exposure, incest and possession of indecent photograph of a child.

Regarding the specific numbers attached to these crimes, these were outlined in the RCIPS crime statistics as follows:

Summary of crimes against women and children in the RCIPS crime report

If you find these numbers concerning for a small, close-knit community, you should be aware that the above does not paint the full picture of the dangers posed to women and children in the Cayman Islands.

This is because what is formally recorded as a “crime” in reports are only the matters for which evidence was provided, the investigation was completed, the court case was concluded and therefore entered into the records management system as a “crime.” Regarding unsolved or unproven or ongoing case files, these are described in the RCIPS report as “incidents” and not crimes.

Understanding the difference is important as there are over thirty thousand incidents reported each year where women and children might be exposed to dangers. That’s almost half the size of the population of the Cayman Islands.

As a lay person, I am not sure whether the relevant parties came up with the semantics of “incident” versus “crime” in reports in order to desensitise residents to what are otherwise grave and disturbing issues.

To emphasise how close these matters are to you daily, the RCIPS report states that there is an average of two sex crimes in Cayman per week and, of the total sex crimes, 47 per cent where related to a residential location while 8 per cent linked to an educational facility. Also, in 2021, 6 of the 90 sexual crimes were domestic violence related and while 56 of the 90 offences involved a youth (the youth involved marker includes a young person as both the victim and/or offender). Note here that these are only recorded “crimes” and the number of “incidents” could be multiples higher.

Dissecting the “incident” statistics further, there were 1,399 Child Safeguarding referrals in 2021 compared to 1,146 in 2020, which is an increase of 22 per cent. The ages of the children range from unborn to 18 years. The peak age range is 13 years to 16 years old making up around 37 per cent of referrals, while 20 per cent are 5 years old and under and 45 per cent are aged 10 years old and under. Fifty-three per cent of the children are female and 47 per cent are male. According to the RCIPS report, such Child Safeguarding referrals can come from a variety of sources including RCIPS, and similar to domestic violence, which is defined by the RCIPS as the physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse of one person by another who is in or has been in a personal relationship with them (partners, ex-partners or other family members), the referrals can span multiple crime or incident types and many may not actually be criminal, however they are still investigated for child safeguarding and welfare concerns.

In the case of Domestic Violence referrals, there were 1,735 in 2021, of which 847 or 49 per cent were recorded as crimes (the rest are just “incidents”).

The main incident types are Civil Disputes with 777 (45 per cent) a slight decrease proportionally on 2020. These are not recorded crimes but will still be considered by the authorities for early intervention and prevention opportunities.

With these numbers now in front of you, the next question is whether you believe that the level of violence against women and children is now at a stage where you feel action must be urgently taken. So far, I do not know if the matter is being taken seriously as I do not see any thousand person marches, ongoing public debates or outrage regarding what is happening to women and children. Instead, there seems to be an overwhelming silence or, perhaps, turning a blind eye to the issues.