Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Michael Abrahams | We must become a nation of informers

Published:Monday | September 4, 2017 | 9:57 AMMichael Abrahams
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On the night of July 9 last year, three-year-old Nevalesia Campbell in Orange Hill, St Ann, went missing. The gruesome discovery of the child’s body in a gully the next morning sent ripples of shock, anger and disgust across the country.

She had been chopped multiple times across her head, torso and other areas of her little body. Residents also claimed that the child appeared to have been sexually assaulted. What was also disturbing to many was the admission by some members of the community that they heard the child crying, but did not suspect foul play, and, therefore, did not consider investigating or making a report. According to a neighbour, “People hear the cry and think a duppy a cry.”

Last week, while reading about the fate of Dexter Pottinger, an eminent fashion designer, I experienced an uneasy feeling of déjà vu. Pottinger’s partially decomposed body was found in a blood-drenched room in his house with multiple stab wounds.

Apparently, while he was being murdered, he made an alarm. However, according a media report, one woman said that a neighbour reported hearing cries for  "help" and "murder" around 4 o'clock on the morning of the assault and that, sometime later, a car drove away from Pottinger's house. But the neighbour confessed that she did not raise an alarm because she was unsure of what was happening.

These accounts, of death cries being ignored, are disturbing, but not surprising. The desensitisation to violence in our country has resulted in apathy replacing empathy, and this, coupled with the “informer fi dead” mentality, has left our populace vulnerable to myriad assaults. Our lack of concern about the safety of our fellow Jamaicans has placed all of us at risk.

A few years ago, I was asked by police attached to the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) to examine a 12-year-old girl who reported being raped by an adult male, and claimed that he had also arranged for her to undergo abortions when he impregnated her.

During her assessment, I had to pass a speculum into her vagina. The speculum is an instrument, constructed of metal or plastic, that is used to visualise the vagina and cervix. Many women, including some who are sexually active and have delivered children vaginally, report discomfort during speculum examinations, and wince during the procedure. However, when I examined this child, the instrument was passed and opened with minimal resistance, and she displayed no signs of discomfort.

It was obvious that she had been penetrated on more than one occasion. Whether the man implicated was the guilty party, or this was an extortion attempt as he claimed in his defence, the fact remained that this underage child had been violated.

A few weeks later, I had a conversation with a woman who works at the same institution as the accused. She told me that she was aware of the case, but when I asked her if she would talk to the police, as they would appreciate some assistance with their investigations, she declined, telling me that she did not want to get involved. So, to summarise, a child has been raped, a suspect has been identified, someone knows the suspect but refrains from possibly assisting the child.

This mentality has unfortunately spread throughout all strata of our society. We complain about crime and violence, but do little to change the situation. We cannot rely solely on our political leaders and our security forces to control the mayhem that has taken over our country. It is an inconvenient truth that in order for the crime situation in our country to improve we, its citizens, have to become more involved.

It means coming out of our comfort zones. It means being inconvenienced at times. It means even risking our lives for our brothers and sisters and children. It means that if we are to achieve an improvement in the fight against lawlessness, we must become a nation of informers.

The apathetic attitude that has become ingrained in our psyche has emboldened the criminal-minded among us to evolve into more brazen creatures, with assaults and murders taking place in public spaces, in broad daylight, with little fear of punitive consequences. If we do not control our criminals, they will control us, and our “informing” is part of the solution.

Our silence is killing us.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams