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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Another young girl was raped on St. Thomas recently. With the exception of whisper conversations at the office, the passing of this event was without any public notice.
In the territory we have these whisper conversations about many things, but rarely do we speak out with a loud, sustained voice. It is troubling that with the recent rash of rapes in our community there is such a deafening silence from the community, and our community leaders, with regard to the attacks on our young girls.
We can only hope the families can find the spiritual and practical strength as well as the professional help to overcome the tragedy that has devastated their lives. Certain they cannot look to this community for support.
It is alarming, and quite frankly infuriating, that we can be so silent regarding child abuse. I do hope that when you are done reading this column, you will be as angry as I am, and if you are angry with me, that's OK. I just want you to be angry. As a community we have to become angry about the level of child abuse in our community, and we need to become angry about the deafening silence from the political, moral, civic and religious leadership.
Where is the community outcry! Where is the sustained community anger! With the exception of the handful of organizations that are in advocacy and supportive services roles, there seems to be no collective will to make child abuse a topic of community discussion. The silence is deafening regarding child abuse here.
Government House and the Legislature, for the most part, have been publicly silent on this issue. I recognize the severity of the financial crisis, but our most precious and vulnerable resource is our children. And they are in crisis. Can't they do two things at the same time?
There have been two feeble murmurs from the Legislature. But given our selective enforcement of current laws, we really don't need another law. And castration in a civilized society does not seem like an option to me.
Our elected officials must take a vocal, sustained, leadership stance against child abuse. Speaking out after an incident is not leadership. As constituents we need to hold the people we elect accountable for the safety of our children. And if the elected officials won't speak out, can't the judicial branch of government speak out on this issue?
The church is the foundation of our community. Can't the faith community leaders rise in every pulpit in the territory and decry what's happening? Do it every Friday night, every Saturday and every Sunday until their worshipers say "we get the message and we will act."
The media, print, radio and television, are supposed to be the sentinels of the community. Where is the sustained proactive reporting? This after-the-fact reporting does nothing to help the victims or the community. It is very difficult to sustain community discussion on any topic without the news media being an active participant and sustaining the discussion.
We need the leadership of the business community to speak out. Can't the union leadership take a public stance on this issue? What about the Rotary and Lions clubs? There is never silence in your weekly meetings. What about the fraternities and sororities in the community? Surely you could take a loud, public stance. Other than the service providers, why is the not-for-profit sector silent? Taxi drivers debate issues everyday wherever they gather. Your voices need to be heard.
Where is the citizenry? Why are we so silent? It is because of all of us that the silence regarding child abuse is so deafening.
You see, to quote Pogo, "We have met the enemy, and it is us." You see, people like me make up the "silent majority" in the community. For the most part we are unknown outside of our circle of friends, places of employment, churches or neighborhoods. We don't advocate for change, outside of voting every two years. And some of us don't even do that. We work every day, pay our taxes, and talk amongst ourselves.
We are members of the aforementioned organizations that have been so silent. We get into our cars and lock our doors. We retreat to homes, double lock our doors and assume that we are keeping our own children safe. We have no sense of keeping the children in our community safe. I am sure that the families of the recent victims did their best to keep their children were safe.
Finally, we never, I mean never, advocate for accountability for the well-being of the children of this community. My fellow citizens, members of the silent majority, if we don't, who will? We are powerless only if we choose to be.
Call, write or e-mail the governor, the senators and Territorial Court judges, letting them know that their voices are not loud enough, not consistent or frequent enough, about the evils of child abuse.
Let them know that we want a consistent and sustained loud voice on behalf of our children. Let them know that it is their silence that is so deafening. We don't want a rally, we don't want a press conference. We want a commitment making them accountable on an ongoing and public basis to protect the children of the territory.
Ask your clergy to make our children, and the protection of our children, a frequent sermon topic. There is power and strength in our places of worship. Let's use that power and strength on behalf our children.
Lobby the organizations in which you hold membership to take a loud public stance against child abuse. Every organization and every member of that organization can play a role.
Make a financial contribution to the organizations that work so hard to help the victims of child abuse. If you can't contribute money, volunteer, or help in any way you can.
Call the news media in the territory to keep child abuse prevention a headline story and a source of discussion on radio talk shows.
Write letters and guest columns to express your anger. Call in to talk shows to express your anger. Don't leave child abuse to be reported only on slow news days. Communicate ways that people and organizations can be a loud voice on behalf of children.
The African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" is very popular these days. In the village called the Virgin Islands, the silence about child abuse is deafening. We need to change that, now.
Editor's note: Richard Brown of St. Thomas, a former banker, is now a "community builder" for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.

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