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‘Startling’ sexual abuse numbers revealed in 2019 STEPS survey

More than one out of every 10 people in The Bahamas has experienced a forced sexual encounter in their lifetime, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands revealed yesterday.

“For the first time also, STEPS shed light on the national prevalence of nonconsensual sex acts,” Sands said.

His comments came during the launch of the 2019 STEPS survey, which surveyed 3,840 individuals throughout The Bahamas in order to get “greater insights into our national non-communicable disease (NCD) profile”.

“At least 13.1 percent experienced a sex act against his/her will,” he continued.

Asked why it was important to include this information in the survey, Sands said, “We want to know what is the reality and understand that there is this hidden secret about unwanted sexual advances, harassment, rape, and to have individuals admit that the number is that high is a startling, striking reality.

“More than one in 10 of us had sex that was not consensual, have been forced to have sex…

“For certain that is a very disturbing number.”

The minister was unable to provide a breakdown of the nonconsensual sexual acts – victims’ ages, their relationships to their perpetrators, etc.

In 2016, a report by the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence revealed that The Bahamas led the Caribbean in the number of recorded rapes.

According to police statistics, there were 55 reported incidents of rape in 2018, a six percent increase compared to 2017.

Police said there were 113 incidents of unlawful sexual intercourse in 2018, which includes instances where minors are sexually assaulted.

The spike in sexual violence in The Bahamas last year led Bahamas Crisis Centre Director Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson to describe rape as an “epidemic” in the country.

The survey noted that the average Bahamian engages in sex for the first time at 17.

It also noted that 11.4 percent of Bahamians had sex before the age of 15.

“We are not in the practice of employing protective measures against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI),” Sands told reporters.

“In the recent past, national data on STIs released by my ministry have made the social media and newspaper rounds. STEPS 2019 helps to validate or rationalize these numbers.

“STEPS 2019 revealed that 12.1 percent of the population has had an STI. Equally as important, 65 percent did not use a condom and 49 percent were not on the pill or shot during their last intercourse.”

 

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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