Reports of crimes related to domestic disturbances and domestic violence rose by more than 66 per cent last year in the Cayman Islands when compared to 2005.
Reports of defilement, or consensual sex involving underage girls also went up by 32 per cent in the past year, according to Royal Cayman Islands Police Service statistics.
But the police inspector in charge of handling those cases said the big increases in reported domestic crimes may not be a bad thing.
‘In the Cayman Islands, people do not talk about abuse,’ said Detective Inspector Angelique Howell of the RCIPS Family Support Unit. ‘It’s a very conservative country. But I believe we’re doing a lot of awareness, so people are now informed.
‘I don’t believe that there is such a vast increase in the actual act being done, but the people are now speaking out and saying ‘no’ to violence.’
In the past few years, Inspector Howell said RCIPS officers and other family-oriented support groups have gone to schools to speak to kids about issues involving domestic violence, underage sex and sex crimes such as defilement and rape.
The topic has proved somewhat controversial.
‘This year we are speaking to the parents first,’ Inspector Howell said. ‘Some people have very different views: ‘Oh my child isn’t ready to hear that yet.’ But this is the real world, and you can’t hide these things.’
The inspector provided the Caymanian Compass a breakdown of offenses, which the police catergorised as domestic incidents. Crimes such as grievous or common assaults, and threats of violence were included; along with domestic disputes that were not considered criminal incidents, but which were reported to police.
The information did not detail cases of defilement or rape. However, statistics related to those crimes were provided by Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan in January.
Those statistics showed an increase in reported defilements, but said that reported rapes actually dropped from 14 in 2005 to 11 in 2006.
Inspector Howell doesn’t buy it.
‘The figure that the police have is never that figure, because people don’t report these things. So for me to say there were 11 rapes in the Cayman Islands (in 2006), absolutely not. I believe there are a lot more rapes, and children being sexually abused.’
In addition to going to the schools and talking to parents, Inspector Howell said additional training is also being provided to police, social service groups and other professionals who work with those involved in domestic violence.
The Women’s Resource Center has revitalized its domestic violence intervention training, and held its first session last week at the Brasserie Conference Facility in Cricket Square.
‘When a person is being abused, sometime they can be very aggressive to us (police officers),’ Inspector Howell said. ‘Our officers need to know these things; that people deal with their trauma in different ways.’
WRC Director Tammy Ebanks Bishop said the training also teaches people about resources that exist in the community to help domestic violence victims.
‘For people to get really comfortable about reporting (domestic crimes), we as a country have to educate our people that they have done nothing wrong,’ said Inspector Howell. ‘It is a constant battle, and I believe it is the same all over the world.’