Incest, or ‘family ram’, is an issue that persons still dare not talk about openly in Jamaica and it is for this reason that the most vulnerable appear to not be receiving the help they deserve, experts say.
The Sexual Offences Act states that incest is committed by a male or female who willingly has sexual intercourse with another person, knowing that the other person is related by whole blood or half blood.
If a stepfather, however, has intercourse with his underage stepdaughter, it is instead listed as sexual intercourse with a person under 16 or rape.
Jamaica Constabulary Force Statistics and Information Management Unit data covering 2014 to 2018 shows that fewer persons are coming forward to report cases of incest. At the end of 2018, the reported cases had decreased by 58 per cent since 2014 across multiple divisions. Over the period, the total number of cases reported was 182.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Samantha Daley, who is in charge of administration at the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), the stigma of being abused by a relative might prevent more victims from coming forward, although most cases are usually reported by the victims themselves.
“Say I am your father and I am having sex with you. You are going to be less likely to report me because I am the one sending you go school and I buy you what you need. I am the breadwinner in the house. So, you have those kinds of situations, but then you have instances where some persons can’t take the situation anymore and just say ‘me no business, if a you a pay this or that, whatever waan happen, happen. This nah go no further’ Said Daley: “We can’t determine what causes low reporting, but we can’t investigate until something comes to our attention, so either we are going to get a referral from the National Children’s Registry or the Children’s Advocate or a telephone call that something is happening somewhere and they want the police to check it out. The police really don’t know what’s happening to go and just check. We have to get information.