The sexual assault and death of Charm (a gentle riding horse beloved by local children) is one of the most troubling crimes we can recall in the Cayman Islands. It is also a test of the relationship between our community and law enforcement.
Charm, who was 25 years old when she had to be euthanized as a result of her injuries, was about as well-reputed locally as any horse could be. The docile white mare was known by name and appearance to thousands of children and their parents who visited the Equestrian Center to learn to ride.
The horse’s measure of “fame,” combined with the animal’s innate innocence and helplessness, are two contributing factors as to why this crime has touched the nerve it has in the community. Additionally, the offense itself is so macabre that the community is concerned that the perpetrators, still at large, will either repeat their perverted behavior or, worse, “graduate” to humans.
What we do know about the link between violence toward animals and violence toward humans is well-established in scientific and legal literature — and little cause for comfort.
For example, a 2014 report from the U.S. National District Attorneys Association demonstrates links between sexual assault against animals and crimes against children (including child sexual assault) and domestic violence. The report also establishes links between animal abuse and violence against intimate partners, arson, property destruction, assault — even serial murder.
In summary, “Those who harm, torture and kill animals for sadistic pleasure or control have few boundaries and should be considered very dangerous,” the report states.
The savage crime committed against Charm (as well as a nearby 30-year-old horse, who survived the injuries) is the closest case we’ve seen in recent times to having a madman on the loose in our small community.
Police must realize and appreciate that what has happened is not just another act of animal cruelty. It is sensational in the worst way possible, and frankly it is potentially terrifying to the community. We believe the police were slow in appreciating the degree to which this crime was engendering fear — and outrage — throughout the community — but now they do.
Finding who assaulted Charm will require good, tough police work. Most investigative strategies have multiple components — relying on tips, gathering forensic evidence and working sources. In this instance, police need to work their sources aggressively.
Someone in the Cayman community knows, or suspects, who committed this atrocity, and they must step forward. Silence equates to cowardice.
For context, the sexual assault of Charm comes amid a too-steady stream of violent acts in Cayman being committed by humans against other humans. Just this weekend, a now-comatose man was brutally beaten and left for dead outside a bar in East End, and three people were hospitalized in a “melee” outside a nightclub on West Bay Road. (To their credit, police have made an arrest in connection with this last case.)
Criminologists are well aware of the phrase “Defining Deviance Down” (DDD), coined by former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who warned that a society is in dangerous decline when it starts to accept as “normal” behavior that had previously been considered “deviant” or unacceptably antisocial.
At this newspaper, we find ourselves writing headline after headline, day after day, about increasingly violent crimes (many of them involving guns or machetes), and a concomitant disrespect for our police. It is a lethal social cocktail.
Perhaps the hideous assault on the island’s most beloved pony will awaken the collective conscience of our country, and compel us to declare one message with one voice: Enough is enough. Violence and thuggery will no longer be tolerated in our once-tranquil country.