Upcountry Insight: Combined efforts needed to combat sexual offenses

EASTERN PROVINCE About 136 sex offenses were registered in Nyagatare district last year, a slight decline compared to 2006 according to police statistics,


About 136 sex offenses were registered in Nyagatare district last year, a slight decline compared to 2006 according to police statistics,

The New Times January 2.
The most damning incident of the reported cases involved 21-year old man defiling a nine-month baby, according to police. This raises concerns about some people’s sanity and whether there weren’t other more bizarre incidents which went unreported.

According to the District police commander, Superintendent, Emmanuel Kalasi, sex offenses were attributed to a large influx of people from across the country and house maids.

New strategies have to be employed to curb down sex offenses including where possible making big billboards on streets so that they act as constant reminders.

Also sensitization workshops have to be stepped up to warn residents of the long arm of the law. Sexual harassment in legal terms is defined as unwelcome advances for sexual favors, verbal or physical conduct explicitly or implicitly.

So children should be encouraged to report anything similar to that because sexual crimes advance from one level to another, for example from mere verbal gestures to rape or defilement.

People should give young girls a break because even touching someone’s body parts without consent is defined as sexual harassment punishable by law.

Literally, sexual harassment is everywhere, in work places, in taxis and other meeting points where you find even herdsmen watering cattle uttering obscene words that are insulting to members of the opposite sex.

The onus remains not only on the Police and local authorities but also residents to report culprits in order to maintain a downward trend.

Experts say “Helping sexually abused children will depend on the combined efforts of law enforcement, medical, social service, and prosecution personnel.”

It is therefore essential for those in each field to recognize and understand the others’ responsibilities in dealing with child sexual abuse. A collective responsibility is needed right from individual level to family and local leaders from Umudugudu (village level) to give a back up support to police in the reduction of such crimes.

Only then can we learn how best to help each other to help the victims and their families.  It becomes increasingly clear that the police officer -- and indeed the entire criminal justice system -- is an integral part of identifying the problem, protecting the victim, and remedying the situation.

Sex offenses aside, other equally humiliating crimes go undetected inside families and between close acquaintances like girl and boyfriends. 

Wife battering are perhaps the most common form of interpersonal harm directed to the female gender.   

The number of actual, unreported cases may be four to five times higher.  Some estimates of domestic violence are as high as 66% of all relationships.

And again what is more worrying; it’s only less than one in ten cases that are reported to police.  No good source of actual numbers is available.

Many women and men who have been subjected to severe physical or sexual abuse during childhood suffer from long-term disturbances of the psyche.

They may be invaded by nightmares and flashbacks -- much like survivors of war, experts say.

 Two recent studies by researchers revealed that survivors of child abuse may also have a smaller short term memory relative to control subjects.

Dr.  William C. Holmes of the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine, in his research, said that when sexually abused boys are not treated, society must later deal with the resulting problems, including crime, suicide, drug abuse and more sexual abuse.

 His studies found that one-third of juvenile delinquents, 40 percent of sexual offenders and 76 percent of serial rapists report they were sexually abused.

Scientists further found out that long term effects of child abuse include fear, anxiety, depression, anger, hostility, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor self esteem, and difficulty with close relationships; this is a burden to the society especially to Rwanda with a bad history.

Adolescents with a history of sexual abuse are significantly more likely than their counterparts to engage in sexual behavior that puts them at risk of HIV infection, according to Dr. Larry K. Brown and associates, from Rhode Island Hospital.

Clinical findings of adult victims of sexual abuse include problems in interpersonal relationships associated with an underlying mistrust.

Generally, adult victims of incest, according to clinical reports, have a severely strained relationship with their parents that are marked by feelings of mistrust, fear, ambivalence, hatred, and betrayal.

These feelings may extend to all family members and also to the whole Rwandan society.


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