The remote British island of Saint Helena has developed a shocking culture of child abuse in which paedophiles are protected and victims are ostracised, a leaked report seen by whistleblower.co.uk warns.
And the confidential dossier raises concerns that the UK Government’s decision to pump £220million into building the British territory its first airport could turn it into a sex tourism destination for perverts.
The report- carried out by children’s charity the Lucy Faithful Foundation- has been leaked by a whistleblower concerned that the worrying findings are being covered up by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Among the troubling findings it reveals:
· * Saint Helena has a culture of acceptance of child abuse
· * There are a number of serial child sex offenders and serial victims on the island.
· * Female victims of child abuse are dubbed ‘slags’ by islanders and persecuted.
· * Juries only convict the most serious sexual abuse cases
· * Puberty, rather than the age of consent, is considered acceptable for sex
· * Police are too accepting of older men’s relationships with under-age girls.
· * Brutal sexual conduct is considered the norm on St Helena
The damning report paints a disturbing picture of how girls across the island are routinely and brutally sexually abused by older men and are given little protection by the community, police or courts.
In echoes of the Pitcairn Islands abuse scandal from the last decade- which eventually led to 14 convictions- it appears that the vast majority of people on the small south Atlantic Island are accepting of a culture of sexual abuse.
The charity report said: ‘We state, here, our view that Saint Helena has a significant problem with exploitative sexual activity… there are a number of serial offenders, a number of serial victims.
‘The essential character of those complaints and offences was violent and brutal. The embedded nature of some of this offending was compounded by an evident failure, on the part of the police, to engage with the problems posed by these individuals on a systematic rather than reactive basis.’
The investigators concluded that teenage girls are regularly attacked by middle-aged men but are too scared to come forward for fear of being known as ‘slags’ and being ostracised by the island community.
Some girls have become a repeated target of abuse and there is little chance of convictions as the serial offenders are too well-regarded within their society.
The reported stated: ‘… the society is generically tolerant of sexual assault, except of the most gross kind, and that the parameters of what was acceptable had been shifted.’
It found that puberty was generally a marker of when girls were available for sex rather than the age of consent. This acceptance appears to have been passed on from older generations when girls who hit puberty were seriously sexually assaulted on their way to school as a part of a ‘rite of passage’ known locally as ‘downing’.
The report continued: ‘ <There> was an evident pattern of significantly older men engaging in what can only be regarded as abusive and exploitative relationships with girls no older than fourteen.
‘The prospects of those girls making complaints appeared quite limited, partly because a significant proportion of the children we spoke to had very little confidence in the ability or willingness of the police to resolve matters, the expressed view being that the involvement of the authorities made things worse, or that ‘revealed’ victims were often castigated as liars or fantasists, since very little confidentiality could be expected once a complaint was made.
‘The older generation of women spoke of the prevalence of ‘downing’ in their adolescence, which was essentially a form of rape by another name, where girls walking to or from school through the countryside would be waylaid and have their underclothes removed before being sexually assaulted.
‘This practice appeared to have become extinct, but it had left a mark upon a generation of mothers, the implication being that they were disabled, in some ways, from ‘seeing’ abusive intent when it was not accompanied by obvious violence.’
The investigators found that generally it was only those women that had left the island to live temporarily in the UK and then returned who understood the unacceptable nature of the sexual abuse they had encountered themselves as children. These women reported that even within consensual adult relationships sexual encounters on Saint Helena were ‘fairly brutal.’
One whistleblower who lived on the island claims that the UK Government is unwilling to act on the endemic sexual abuse because it is more concerned with unburdening itself from its financial responsibility to the island.
The UK Government currently subsidises Saint Helena to the tune of £30 million a year and it is hoped that when the airport opens that the island will become financially self-sufficient. Money for the airport- which is due to open in February 2016- was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development.
But the report says the issue of the airport turning Saint Helena into a centre for sex tourism needs to be urgently addressed. It said: ‘We felt that existing vulnerabilities and confusions on St Helena in respect of sexual conduct might prove ripe for exploitation by more sophisticated visitors.’
The whistleblower said: ‘Everyone, right up to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been made aware of the problems of child abuse but nothing seems to change. There is a culture of acceptance and cover-up.
‘The British Government and the St Helena Government is aware of what’s going on but there doesn’t seem to be any concerted attempt to stop the abuse.
‘The bigger concern seems to be in making sure that the airport is built to make the island financially independent and damn the consequences. Meanwhile, innocent children are being sexually assaulted.
‘This is not historic abuse- it is taking place right now and must be stopped.
‘We know the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is aware of this so why isn’t it acting?’
The report was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and finalised in October 2013 but only a heavily edited version was ever made public.
The whistleblower says that those who speak out on the island against the abuse become targets themselves.
Two social workers who blew the whistle about the ongoing abuse to the FCO have themselves become targets of a Saint Helena police investigation.
The social workers from the UK are believed to have raised their concerns about the ongoing child abuse on the island at every level before approaching the FCO, only to find their paths blocked.