By Indranie Deolall
The next victim does not yet know. But she will become just another anonymous casualty in an ongoing war.
She may take a cab from a designated zone thinking she is safe travelling home with others, walk down a residential road, go to school in the time of COVID, turn up for a longed-for job interview, visit a popular mall, stop off at a boyfriend, hesitate and accept a lift from a smiling colleague, her coach, a senior relative, a familiar face, a figure in a trusted uniform, a confidante of her father.
She will stay at home, or travel to meet an estranged or current spouse, a religious or even a union leader, a prowling psychopath, a private car driver, a pharmacist, a photographer or a potential landlord. She will stop at the side of the public road when her car is hit from behind and come out to check the damage. She will smash and leap through a window stark naked, crawl on the ground trying in vain to find a place to hide.
She will scream from atop a lonely cliff, and unheard in a forest, a locked vehicle, a seaside guesthouse, a prestigious hotel, a remote shack, a bed-bug infested brothel, a stinking beer-garden, a small house with thin, worn wooden boards in a very crowded section of the city or a grand mansion with soundproof rooms in a posh, gated, guarded neighbourhood.
In the end though, if she survives or before she dies, she will be shocked by her naivety if she is still conscious, when her dreams become living, stalking, mocking nightmares, realising the perpetrators are all truly strangers, and that she never knew them – any of them.
She will be another student, a teacher, a businesswoman, a clerk, a mother, a sister, a friend, a stranger, a neighbour, a graduate, a grandmother, an escort, a wife, an immigrant, a foreigner, a local, a girl, a child… Yes, as always, she will be someone’s child and daughter. As he is someone’s child, born too, of a woman and a man, incredible though to think of.
Just over a week ago, a pretty Venezuelan migrant, who works a notorious strip in Georgetown, agreed in her broken English to a passing acquaintance’s indecent proposition, because her three children must eat, and the promised $10, 000, just under US$50 would help go towards buying a gallon of milk, several packs of sausages, a block of yellow cheese, a bit of meat or chicken, and simple staples like rice, sugar, flour, margarine and cornmeal.
In these tough times as an epidemic rages and a smart virus changes, money is never enough to mind a hungry family or to send back home to the waiting mouths. So she takes what offers come in the well-known establishment and the side-streets, where she hustles like the countless, desperate women, some trafficked, who have fled into Guyana and neighbouring countries, leaving their once-rich oil homeland wracked by chronic shortages, crippling sanctions, interminable violence, and widespread mismanagement and corruption.
You will be my 24 victim
She allows the photographs of her battered face with the bruised, closed eyes, and her head of long braids with streaks of scarlet weaving, to be published in graphic and horrific detail in Guyana’s Kaieteur News and to go viral on social media, because she wants to warn others out there. She wants the world to witness that her attacker warned her, “I will kill you. You will be my 24th victim. I have done this many times before, and you will be no different.”
Weeping, she recounts her tale in a hoarse voice that is pleading to be heard, as a powerful affirmation of individual courage in the international overwhelming ululation of grief, endured by endless women who have suffered unimaginable sexual and physical violence, often without any justice. Already another Venezuelan victim has come forward with a similar harrowing account, and alleged inaction by the authorities.
Outrage and stories
As images of the assailant in his polo shirts circulated online, the outrage and stories intensified. Amidst renewed calls for a sexual offenders’ public registry, one upset user, now a doctor, recalled, “He used to work taxi on the East Bank (of Demerara) since 2010-2011. Always a creep!! Always inappropriate!! He needs to be in jail!!! As a young girl just out of high school 15-17 (years old), I would have to put him in his place,” she posted.
Another remembered, “When u jump in the car with him is pure out of the way sex talk with he. If u don’t bump him he nah stop talk. Smh I know something d wrong with he.”
In the list of matters for trial at the June 2020 Session of the High Court for Demerara, were listed three Cases 208 -210 in the name of the accused all for rape, including Case 209 on two counts.
About 170 of the one county’s 369 listed Cases only for last year’s session, ranging from murder to robbery under arms and abduction, relate to Guyanese men who were on trial for sexual assault, including numerous cases of rape, carnal knowledge, sexual activity with a child family member, rape of a child under sixteen years, sexual activity with a child by abusing a position of trust, indecent assault, and causing a child under sixteen years to watch a sexual act.
Charged with rape
On January 12, 2018, the accused was charged with the rape of two women, the first between November 30-December 1, 2017, and the other between January 3-4, 2018. Appearing before a woman Magistrate, he was released on $200,000 bail on each charge.
He was slapped with another rape charge on April 6, 2018. Police Prosecutor Gordon Mansfield objected to bail being given, noting that the accused was recently committed to stand trial for similar offences. The magistrate granted the accused his release on $100,000 bail, with the condition that he lodge his passport and stay away from the complainant. Charged in September, 2017 with escaping lawful custody at the Agricola Police Station, while under investigation for rape and murder, the accused had the charge against him dismissed three months later, after the Magistrate upheld a no-case submission.
“Wait! He was caught in 2018 and let go to rape more women? Bull… man, I hope this time he gets what he deserves,” a woman raged.
Finally on Friday, March 5, 2021, the taxi-driver Thurston Semple, of Tucville, Georgetown, faced a new rape charge in connection with the latest attack. Arraigned before chief magistrate Ann McLennan at the Georgetown magistrates’ Courts, he was not required to plead. He was remanded to prison until March 11.
Trinidad and Tobago serial rapist
Referring to the late Joel Balcon/Belcon, the Trinidad and Tobago serial rapist held last month in relation to the kidnapping and murder of 23-year-old court clerk, Andrea Bharatt, a Guyanese woman said, “They need to deal with him accordingly, less we end up like Trinidad.”
In October 2011, the Trinidad Express used a photograph of Belcon, also known as Devon Charles, 27, in their article stating that he was denied bail when he appeared before a Justice of the Peace on charges of rape and kidnapping offences against five women, and was later allegedly beaten by other prisoners on being placed in a cell at the Arima courthouse. He was taken by Police to the District Hospital for medical treatment. Belcon would end up out on bail repeated times, despite charges against him for over 70 serious offences, including rape, grievous sexual assault, kidnapping and breaking and entering, recent news accounts stated.
As angry Guyanese repeatedly queried about the accused this week, “why is he still walking free?” They know all too well that the next victim, and assailant, could be anyone.
*ID is refining a scorpion pepper sauce and looking for a giant handbag after seeing a Trinidadian woman’s video of compulsory defence weapons including a hot spray, a sharp knife and a cement block.