SOLOMAN ISLANDS: Sexual assault against women an emerging challenge here

Thursday, October 13, 2011
Soloman Star
Solomon Is.
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Sexual abuse is a CRIME. Sexual assault is an attack of a sexual nature on another person or child, or any sexual act committed without the person's permission.

It is an involuntary sexual act in which a person is threaten, intimidate, or forced to engage against their will, or any sexual touching of a person who has not consented.

This includes rape “(such as forced vaginal, anal or oral penetration), inappropriate touching, forced kissing, child sexual abuse, or the torture of the victim in a sexual manner”.

There is nobody, no organization, no law and no government that will stop this rising tide.

Sexual Assault is slowly killing many women and young girls in many communities throughout the Solomon Islands.

One way in expressing this is that, sexual assault in this country turns out to be an EPIDEMIC and it is spreading out in many homes, communities, offices and squatters.

Sexual abuse is non discriminatory for it can happen to any man, woman or child. Sexual abuse if it is increasing in the Solomon Islands, there is need for those in places of leadership in the family, community, workplaces and others to be able to read the signs by people or children who may be experiencing sexual abuse. Sexual abuse happens everywhere, at home, in public places and offices etc.

Why do people sexually assault others?

Sexual assault is not about offenders getting pleasure from sex, but rather about them claiming power and control over someone else.

The local media is providing us with information on a lot of cases in which the father or the uncle having sexually abused their own very young daughters or nieces is not about pleasure, but more about POWER and CONTROL.

Again there are a lot of contributing factors that makes a person do such an act. In a place like Honiara, issues such as having crowded homes, unemployment, fragmentation of leadership and good governance in many families and communities, no long term role models, increase of criminal activities as well as having a legal system that is there, but in many ways fragile to address such a crime effectively.

At the same time, it is not a new thing that the legal system is not operating on its own, but considerably influenced by our local social and cultural attitudes.

One area to consider as well is that most of our local Judges are male and in most of these sexual assault cases with all their legal experiences behind them in dealing with similar cases before, does not often meet the expectations of women in particular the victims.

Monitoring and observing what is going on, a lot of cases on sexual assault against women and young girls are being made public with many been put before the court, but with such a very tiring and expensive process, most of these cases changed in terms of hard evidences to lessen the support for such cases.

At the same time, the pressure that is been put on the victims to alter their stories or withdraw such cases is quite massive.

This happens in particular when the father is the perpetrator and the daughter is the victim.

In order for the police to investigate such cases thoroughly, the report should have come from the mother herself and not anyone else as indicated by one of the Police Officers.

Looking at what is happening now, a lot of people would say that this country is on the road to recovery as result of the presence of RAMSI, however all these issues are killing RAMSI assistance because we ourselves are not trying hard enough to develop our own country to be a better place where men, women and children can enjoy without fear and intimidation.

When sexual assault is committed by an adult to adult, it is wrong, but not so wrong compared to when it happens to a child.

When an adult is sexually abused, he or she can talk about it confidently that such an act had actually happened as well talk about how she feels.

When this happens to a child the trauma is very different. Studies have shown that the psychological damage is often particularly severe when sexual assault is committed by parents against children due to the incestuous nature of the assault. “Incest between a child or adolescent and a related adult has been identified as the most widespread form of child sexual abuse with a huge capacity for damage to a child. Often, sexual assault on a child is not reported by the child for several reasons”:

  • children are too young to recognize their victimization or put it into words

  • they were threatened or bribed by the abuser

  • they feel confused by fearing the abuser but liking the attention

  • they are afraid no one will believe them

  • they blame themselves or believe the abuse is a punishment

  • they feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator

Traditional way of dealing with Sexual abuse:

Personally, compensation as a form of penalty for Offenders committing sexual abuse should not be encouraged in any way.

Paying compensation in many of our customs only encourages silence on behalf of the victim and maintain of peace between the families.

Such a process does not care about the livelihood of the victim, but only to receive the compensation in whatever forms it comes.

Again one can transparently see the aspects of power and control. In this compensation process, victims in particular women and young girls never asked what they would like to see, or whatever process they would like to take.

Such decision on what to do is mainly made by men and even the compensation itself is received on behalf of the victim by men as well.

Today we are talking about how law and order have been restored, that is in relation to the ethnic tension, but looking at issues such as violence against women and young girls including sexual abuse, it is quite very alarming.

If half of the Solomon Island population are affected as result of these issues, would you confidently say that the law has been restored?

There is no denial that a lot of good things are happening, but the worse this country can do is to overlook this issue.

Issues such as violence against women including sexual assault is on the rise and women themselves are not strong and resourceful enough to remotely advocate on these life threatening issues.

There needs to be a better way forward for all stakeholders to engage. There is need for more inclusive development programs to be initiated and supported by donors and the government.

Sexual assault in this country is quite alarming and this country cannot shut this out in the name of sustainable developmental programs or projects year after year.

The Civil Society and the National Government should do more to protect the women and young girls in this country by putting more resources into existing programs that addresses violence against women and young girls including sexual assault.

The national government needs to invest more resources into women's organizations such as the National Council of Women, Family Support Centre and the Christian Care Centre so that together their work can make a difference.