Underage girls traded for food on remote British islands, according to leaked report
The islands of Saint Helena have a “culture of acceptance” of child abuse according to the investigation by a leading charity
The Saint Helena territory includes Saint Helena island itself, east of Angola, and the smaller Ascension Island to the north west with a combined population of around 5,000 people.
But according to an investigation by the children’s charity the Lucy Faithful Foundation, there is “abusive and exploitative” sexual activity taking place on both islands with underage girls.
Teenage girls are targeted by older men according to the charity, and given alcohol as they are groomed.
They also uncovered a ‘casual form of prostitution’, with women and teenage girls traded in return for food and consumer goods.
Police efforts to stop the problem on the smaller Ascension island have been counterproductive, according to the report, “alienating some of those they were attempting to assist and protect”.
A four page summary report was released to the public last September, but now the full 83 page investigation has been leaked to the www.whistleblower.co.uk website.
The charity has raised concerns that the UK Government’s decision to pump £220-million into building the British territory its first airport could turn it into a sex tourism destination for paedophiles.
The report found:
- 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 case.
- 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.
The charity report said: “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 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 UKs 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 Saint 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 historical abuse- it is taking place right now and must be stopped.”
The whistleblower claims 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.