See and blind, hear and deaf…

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The following is my unedited Gleaner column of March 22, 2017. Because it goes directly against the anti-Latoya Nugent and anti-#saytheirnames position adopted by the Gleaner this column wasn’t even shown in the Commentary lineup today (the sidebar showing columns published on a particular day), and you would have had to search hard to find it, very odd considering the number of views it has attracted. Anyway, thank the various gods for blogs…i can easily remedy the situation by posting it here.

The latest is that Nugent’s case which was to have been heard today has been postponed to March 31 because DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) Paula Llewelyn has announced ‘an interest’ in the case. We shall see when the time comes what this ‘interest’ means for issues of libel and defamation in cyberspace. Meanwhile the fate of Latoya Nugent aka as Stella Gibson on Facebook (the name of a hardcore police detective who’s an unapologetic feminist from the British show The Fall) hangs in the balance.

As I pointed out in an earlier column, Jamaican men cry rape every time women say, “Yes, let’s say their names.” A kind of hysteria breaks out because somehow they hear this as women demanding the right to falsely accuse men of raping them. But this is not what women are demanding at all, particularly in the new activism around violence against women.

According to Latoya Nugent, one of the founders of Tambourine Army, most of what has been said in both traditional and social media about the#saytheirnames movement is a damaging and gross misrepresentation. She clarifies that the movement is emphatically not about recklessly calling names without any context:

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When we encourage survivors to say the names of perpetrators we are not telling them where to say that name, when to say that name, we are telling them that if they are ever ready to say the names of their perpetrators in private and/or in public that support is available. Whether you want emotional support, psychological support or legal support, it is available for you. I want folks to appreciate that this is about facilitating the empowerment of survivors and about shifting the blame and shame away from survivors and placing it squarely at the feet of perpetrators and institutions which have allowed folks to abuse their positions of authority and trust because they are aware that we as a society silence our victims and our perpetrators. Our first response when a woman or girl says to us that they have been sexually assaulted or raped is that we don’t believe them and #Saytheirnames is about saying to such women, ‘we believe you, if you decide to come forward we believe you, we will provide the support that you need and if we can’t provide it, we will point you to the entities, or the agencies or the individuals who can give you the support that is needed.’ (Transcribed verbatim from an interview with Nationwide’s Cliff Hughes the day before Latoya Nugent was arrested)

Basically there has been a ‘see and blind, hear and def’ or “see not, hear not, speak not” policy in place in Jamaica for decades. There is widespread buy-in from civil society, the media, the Church, the University, the legal fraternity, you name it. It is enforced by an army of prim citizens, whose first reaction when you speak out about an injustice is to raise their finger to their lips in the universal gesture that means ‘halt your speech’ or ‘stop your noise’ as they say here.

People are socialized to believe that it is fundamentally wrong to ‘call someone’s name’ in public, especially in the media. This should only be done after accusations have been proved in court they say. But court cases take years to be completed in Jamaica and even when they do, often fail to deliver justice. Take the case of the Reverend Paul Lewis, accused of raping a 14-year old girl in Sav-la-Mar, in the presence of another 14-year old girl who testified in court to the rape. Despite the Reverend’s semen being found on the child’s underwear, despite the testimony of an eyewitness, a Jamaican court saw fit to hand down a ‘not-guilty’ verdict.

More often than not rape victims don’t report the crime or give up during the extremely painful, invasive process of going to court to prosecute their attackers. A senior lecturer at UWI says: “I’ve watched helplessly while one of my (now former) students went through 4 years of appearances, delays, and postponements in the courts for the prosecution of two young men whom she had been able to identify as being among her assailants in a gang rape. She eventually decided to pull out of the case. As she put it, they had taken enough of her life, and every time she was required to make another court appearance, she relived the experience. She needed to move on. Justice denied. I wish the perpetrators could be named.”

“Every year, an average of 5,500 people are reporting sexual violence to Canadian police, but their cases are dropping out of the system as unfounded long before a Crown prosecutor, judge or jury has a chance to weigh in,” reports the Globe and Mail. The use of the term ‘unfounded’ to describe cases that the police have dropped due to the inadequacies of their own methods of interviewing victims, taking statements etc has been identified as highly problematic. The article goes on to state:

“True unfounded cases, which arise from malicious or mistaken reports, are rare. Between 2 per cent and 8 per cent of complaints are false reports, according to research from North America, the United Kingdom and Australia.”

There is no reason the numbers would be markedly different in Jamaica. Why then the moral panic about the mere possibility of libel in cyberspace? And why is there not a similar outcry about the out-of-control rape culture here?

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

7 thoughts on “See and blind, hear and deaf…”

  1. I personally dont like the device of painting positions as uniform by using blanket phrases such as ‘Jamaican men’, not least because it presumes all positions are this way and that the variations that may exist don’t matter. It’s much harder to deal with the nuances created by use of terms like ‘some’ or ‘many’, but that does not mean those distinctions are trivial.

    You cite a quote from Latoya explaining more fulsomely what #SayTheirName means. Where and when was this said? I’ve heard other explanations on radio, at least, that did not explain things this way. If I’m not mistaken, one such was by Emprezz on Beyond The Headlines. It would help if this clarification were put into the public domain in a clear and legitimate manner as THE position, if that’s what it is, IMO.

    One of the real problems of arguing that delays in the justice system justifies doing something is that that ‘action’ can subvert the process. We saw this recently when (Loop, I think) interviewed the victims of rape by the Moravian Pastor and several lawyers pointed out that some of the information that came from that may/would taint the case. Again, I don’t think that’s trivial. If this delay justification works for one issue, who not just go there on other issues? That seems like a dangerous road.

    One thing that puzzles me about strategy (and I apologize if I have missed it) is why no pressure seems to be directed towards either the police force or the justice system to reform, and do so quickly. I dont regard snide remarks in social media about the present interim Police Commissioner as fulfilling such engagement.

    1. I use the term Jamaican men quite deliberately and of course that doesn’t mean every single man…one is wary of generalizations but in this case i do intend to do so and the reasons are obvious if you examine the back and forth around Tambourine Army and the stubborn insistence on elevating reputation above rape.

      I transcribed this statement verbatim from a radio interview Latoya did with Cliff Hughes on Nationwide some time back, Since I’m the only one to have taken the trouble to transcribe it it’s the only written version that exists. I did see an article on the subject in teh Observer with the audio clips inserted. The point is people have gone to great lengths to misrepresent the #saytheirnames campaign, i myself have had gr8 difficulty making myself heard even to close friends, because they insist on hearing something else. My opening statement in this post is therefore very clearly and deliberately worded to describe a very disturbing phenomenon that is manifesting itself here and elsewhere where silence is being demanded for unfounded reasons.
      On the last point we’ve seen the fight INDECOMM is getting in trying to reform the police force. One might say why even bother with that. In the meantime victims are suffering and being offered no recourse either by the so-called justice system or civil society. Tambourine Army has stated quite clearly its intention to provide support to rape survivors. why is that so difficult to understand?

      1. The real and present danger is that you throw mud even those men who wish to support, as implicit in their reticence to say anything–a point made implicitly by Kei Miller in his attempt to stand with the movement.

        Hopefully, Nationwide could pull a copy of the interview and it would be useful to share.

        Sadly, misrepresentation of #saytheirname has come from within and without.

        Off to raise my daughter as a #Fearlessgirl.

        Namaste!

      2. Namaste to you too…Kei Miller’s post was a masterpiece. Unless men join women in changing the status quo where women are seen as fair game for rape and no one bats an eyelid at the completely dysfunctional, non-performing systems they must use for dubious reparation men will also face the risk you mention. Though it certainly is a minuscule risk compared to the very real danger women face every day in a society where rape culture is rampant but men are more concerned about their reputations.

      3. I am puzzled by comment that column was not posted by Gleaner. I read it online. Not bought a print edition in a while.

      4. i didn’t say it wasn’t published, i said it was buried, that is on Wed when the column was published it didn’t appear in the Commentary lineup as an item to click on. It still doesn’t appear under ‘More stories’ though older stories than mine appear there. This has never happened before. People were contacting me to see how they could access it, hence the decision to post it on my blog on the same day. usually i wait a few days before posting a column here.

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