When we talk about children as the most unprotected group in Guyana, we can add the name Sanesha Lall. The 16-year-old was stabbed to death this week by an aggressive 34-year-old man.
But this is not an isolated incident. Teenage girls have been murdered before in this country by adult predators and because society continues to fail our children, names like Sanesha have been added to the list.
For two years this man was allowed to prey on this child. No, I will not refer to a 34-year-old man as the ex-girlfriend or ex-girlfriend of a dead 16-year-old girl. I will not write about this incident as it was two adults involved in consensual relationships. He is a pedophile and a murderer.
Society continues to fail our children by normalizing such relationships. Children are brainwashed by adult men who chase and bully them into rape and we are quieter than annoyed. But even when there is anger it is fleeting. A few days of condemnation and shock, a few articles and soon we are crawling back to our shells and the predators continue to enjoy freedom and life until the next thing is revealed in the media.
Every community in this country needs organizations to lead the fight against sexual predators. We need networks of protectors and protectors of our children who will work relentlessly to curb and hopefully one day end the ongoing damage to the children of Guyana. Children need to be empowered with the knowledge to identify sexual predators and be taught how to reject and report them when asked. Children need to feel safe in their homes and schools. The streets must not be a dangerous place where they are regularly approached by divers. And when the abuse takes place in the home, the children need to know that there are adults they can trust and trust and organizations that will work on their behalf to protect them. I know that there are established organizations – the Child Care and Protection Agency for example – but clearly what we have is not enough for the stories too often, too painful, too deadly and those that aren’t never get much more publicity.
There are some in our society who are quite comfortable with this culture. They make excuses for the predators and blame the victims. Based on some comments on social media, Sanesha wanted a ‘big man’ and she was ‘young and hot’. These comments about young women suffering from pedophiles are not new. Individuals who choose to shift the blame to the victims empower and enable the pedophiles. Adults write such statements about a child on social media, as being guilty of her death rather than blaming the aggressive pedophile, is a sign of a miserable society. We may not fully understand how sick we are.
I reflect on the times when I was a kid and noticed older men looking at me. I remember being in primary school and seeing a man masturbating in public and calling me. And being a teenager and being followed by a man voicing his sexual desires. It is easy for women to become victims of these pedophiles. Society makes it easy because we often see and hear, but say or do nothing. Many parents do not have conversations with their children to prepare them for pedophile developments. Some parents are uncomfortable discussing sex and relationships with their children. Children often do not know what to do when they are molested or raped. Their molesters and rapists often threaten them and hold the power because their parents have failed them. And it’s worse when those rapists and molesters are parents themselves or other family members.
We know that many parents find it difficult to raise their children. We know that poverty is a major factor why many women suffer from the pedophiles in our society. We know that some parents are aware that their children are being sexually abused but turn a blind eye or benefit from it. And even in cases where poverty is not the issue, the breakdown of communication between parents and children is a major factor.
We also have a generation being raised on social media; a generation that has had smartphones and tablets that often have internet access with little parental guidance, and a generation that can in one click access any information they want. There are predators who also use the internet to prey on our children.
Sanesha’s parents were reported dead and she and her siblings were left to take care of themselves. The fact that the community would tolerate her relationship with this man because she needed help, is another sign of how depressed we are. Could we ever expect men who see young women in vulnerable situations to really want to help them without expecting their reward to be entitled to rape and call them a relative?
This man was referred to as her ex-boyfriend and ex-boyfriend by the media. The media is primarily responsible for creating the narrative. If the man lived with this child for two years, she was thirteen or fourteen years old. A thirteen year old cannot give consent. Neither can a fourteen or fifteen year old child. And even though consent is sixteen, you’re still a pedophile if you’re in your thirties chasing after sixteen-year-olds.
We have to replace words like ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend when children are murdered by adult men. He was her abuser. It’s a pedophile. He is a murderer.
Guyana girls are not just the ones who are raped and molested, his boys are too. These pedophiles are so comfortable harming our children because of the silence and excuses made for their deviant behavior; because too often people protect child abusers; because too often the abused children are blamed for the way some blame Sanesha; because there is no chemical castration for pedophiles who rape children, and perhaps because there is no death penalty. Some of them go to jail for a while and are then let out for rape again. There is no sex offender registry, which, the last I read about, is still being created.
We wonder why there are so many troubled adults in our society and why we continue to be amazed by unkind actions. I’m pretty sure that if many troubled Guyanese were appraised, much of their perverted behavior would be related to being sexually abused as children.
It’s time we formed that village to protect our children. Sanesha must not be another statistic. We can’t wait for another name to be added to the list.