22 Jul 2013

Number of reported sexual violence cases in Fiji is on the rise

5:26 pm on 22 July 2013

The number of reported sexual violence cases in Fiji is increasing, and women and child advocates say the worrying trend of perpetrators getting younger is also on the rise.

The Fiji police say close to 3,000 sexual violence cases were reported last year.

Advocates say that while much has improved over the years in terms of community and police support, there is still much more that needs to be done.

Leilani Momoisea reports:

The Fiji Child Abuse and Sexual offences unit says the 2,980 offences reported to the police last year include rape, sexual assault and the defilement of persons under the age of 16. The Fiji police were unable to make comment, but the unit's national co-ordinator, Detective Inspector Salaseini Vakatuturagani, told Fiji Village that in most cases the perpetrators are known to the victims.

"SALASEINI VAKATUTURAGANI: In the urban areas, there's an increase of sexual offences. These are the ones that are reported but we really cannot tell the ones that are hidden under the carpet. Major victims, the categories are under the age of 16, rape is top, and second highest is indecent (Inaudible) of person, that is increasing right now."

The director of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Shamima Ali, says a lot has improved over the years, for example, there is more awareness and support in the community and the Police Sexual Offences Unit does an excellent job most of the time. She says 30 years ago, only 5 percent of people reported sexual crimes, and this has risen to about 10 percent now. But she says it's likely the other 90 percent of sexual violence survivors don't report the assault, because of the attitudes of both the community and the police.

SHAMIMA ALI: Women are blamed for being raped - it's their fault. Those myths are still around. Then also there is a lot of problems with law enforcement, the attitudes with the service providers, with law enforcement attitudes, with our courts, even though we have some of the best laws. While things have changed, we still have those problems.

Shamima Ali says she recently had a case where a young girl reported her rape to police, but they later lost her statement. The creative director of Womens Action for Change, Peni Moore, says there is also great concern that over the last couple of months, there have been cases with perpetrators as young as 12, 14 and 16 years old.

PENI MOORE: There's been cases recently of young perpetrators and we believe that it's got to have some reflection on the availability of pornography via internet and other modes of modern communication.

Peni Moore says the problem is not unique to Fiji, and it would be helpful to hear how other countries are educating their young people when it comes to technology and pornography. She says while police statistics show urban cases are on the increase, it's likely rural crimes are going unreported because rural victims don't always have the same access to support.

PENI MOORE: By that I mean they don't have the same access to police, they may be in a more isolated area. For example, in a family, the man goes out to work. If another man comes to the property and speaks with her, next thing there'll be saying, 'Oh, she's having an affair with that man'. If that man happened to come in and rape her, she would have great difficulty in proving that she wasn't having an affair with him.

Shamima Ali says the communities that are most likely to provide proper support for sexual violence survivors, are the ones where there is the most awareness and understanding of the problem. But she says it's important the right prevention messages are coming from the right people. Womens Actions for Change says it works with the police to ensure they are better equipped to listen and believe children, when young people come to them to report sexual abuse. The Fiji police say it is doing community awareness programmes in many parts of the country.