Sandra Catron says Cayman needs to confront child sex abuse problem
Community activist Sandra Catron wants the Cayman Islands to confront some uncomfortable truths about the level of child sex abuse in the territory.
In a lecture at the International College of the Cayman Islands last week, she defended her involvement with an unofficial Facebook sex offenders registry and called for tougher sentences for child molesters.
She also wants to see more community education, including specific training for judges and greater acknowledgment of the seriousness of the issue.
Ms Catron was invited to give a lecture at the college in the wake of a series of recent court cases involving child sexual abuse. She has made the issue a personal “cause célèbre,” organizing a petition against a six-month sentence handed out to a father who admitted molesting his eight-year-old daughter.
She has also been linked with a Facebook page that posts pictures of convicted pedophiles and names and shames them online.
The page, which is administered from overseas, has come under fire because it circumvents a law in the Cayman Islands that prevents publishing information that could lead to the identification of a victim – an obvious risk in cases where the offender and his victim are related.
She said, “With the sex offenders registry, some people argue if you somehow out the victim that is going to make things worse. When I hear that argument, what that says to me is this victim has something be ashamed of.
“The victim hasn’t done anything wrong, we’re not outing you because you haven’t done anything wrong.”
She said it would take most people in the Cayman Islands no more than three phone calls to find out who a victim was anyway.
“For the victim, whether there is a sex offenders registry set up or not, they have those same questions, the same self-doubts that people know, their siblings know, people in school know.”
Police have previously spoken out about the naming of offenders online. In a statement earlier this year, a Royal Cayman Islands Police spokesperson condemned the public naming of a sex offender, saying it would likely lead to the identification of his victim.
“The posting of names and photographs on this Facebook page causes us a great deal of concern. Firstly, the action could prejudice forthcoming court cases, but more importantly by identifying the accused, this will in turn lead to the identification the victim,” the spokesperson said.
She added that, citing a case last year involving a 12-year-old girl, while she is not named on the Facebook page, “anyone who knows the accused, or recognizes him in the posting will be able to identify the victim, thus revictimizing a vulnerable child who has already suffered so much.”
Ms Catron, in her lecture, said she had spoken to several victims of sex abuse who supported the idea of a sex offenders registry.
She said victims should be made to feel they had nothing to hide and insisted the community needed to speak more openly about sex abuse and encourage victims to come forward.
“You have to understand that knowledge is power. We need to start from that perspective and start empowering our young people. If someone touches you, if they molest you, you have not done anything wrong, you report it to the authorities, tell your parents, keep talking about it and keep telling someone until something is done about it.”
Ms Catron acknowledged that not everyone would agree with her methods and said she was prepared to take some criticism in order to bring the issue into the public domain.
“This is an issue that no one wants to speak out about. If I get clobbered as a result, so be it. The alternative is to sweep it under the mat. That’s not an answer. My methods might not be exactly right but people are at least talking about the issue.”