The Detroit Free Press carries an important investigative report on reports of sexual assaults in Jamaica where mutiple resorts have taken steps to ‘cover up’ incidents.
- Failing to make evidence available
- Encouraging women not to file complaints with the police, even to just ‘forget about it’
- Seeking non-disclosure agreements surrounding incidents
Over the last several years, Jamaican resorts have silenced multiple sexual assault victims, discouraging them from calling the police or pressing charges, downplaying their fears and offering free hotel stays or cash refunds in exchange for a promise not to sue or tell anyone what happened, the Free Press found.
There are stories of spiked drinks and rapes on resort excursions — and resorts telling guests not to report their experiences to police, and seeking to have reports removed from social media.
Reports cover several properties including Beaches Negril Resort & Spa; Sunscape Splash; Sandals Ochi Beach Resort; Grand Bahia Principe; Breathless Montego Bay Resort & Spa and Hotel Riu Reggae. To be sure, the reports are of incidents believed to be statistically rare — about once a month — but we also don’t really know given efforts to suppress sharing of details.
Credit: Beaches Negril Resort & Spa
I’m not a personal security expert but I’ve traveled extensively. I don’t face the precise same risks as a male that women do, and that’s regardless of age, the stories of rape aren’t limited to younger women. When I travel I try not to stand out too much by my dress and actions, and try not to be alone in remote places.
In offering this suggestion I am absolutely not blaming the victim the way a local police woman seems to,
After going to the hospital, the au pair went to the police station to give a statement. There, she heard a comment that left her reeling.
“The police woman said to me, ‘Were you not warned about the culture here?’ ” she recalled, noting she was confused.
The police woman elaborated: “These things happen here. … Next time, don’t have so many drinks.”
However — and this shouldn’t be necessary — but it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Consider not going out alone, especially after dark. That’s a challenge with solo travel! And especially consider not drinking while traveling solo.
That’s good advice I think even when traveling in the United States, but doubly so in a country where a State Department travel advisory says, “Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts.”
Not all of the stories involve women traveling alone, however, or even involve alcohol. However the broader point is that you may feel safe because you’re on property at a resort, but perhaps we too easily let our guard down. Being alone with a stranger can be dangerous, even if the stranger is employed by your resort.
My wife has traveled to yoga retreats in Mexico and Costa Rica. A surprising number of facilities don’t have locks on the doors of guest rooms. She won’t go to those.
One area where I depart from the common narrative is that I think criticism of resorts for failing to notify police can be overdone. What resorts are to blame for is failing to make surveillance video footage and other evidence available that can identify perpetrators, whether employees or guests. No doubt they want to avoid publicity which could depress future bookings and avoid potential liability.
There’s too much emphasis on resorts failing to notify police I think, guests are capable of doing that. And police aren’t always helpful, either. Hopefully with greater attention here though resorts can be pressured,
- to assist in the investigation of crimes
- to shift away from seeking non-disclosure agreements in exchange for (very modest) compensation, because people really do need to be aware of the risks — indeed, systematically acting in a way to prevent guests from knowing the risks they face ought to increase liability.
Resorts do bear some responsibility, presenting themselves as safe cocoons in foreign lands, to at least do extensive background checks on their own employees. Some say they do this. They can’t guarantee the behavior of other guests, but they can support victims by providing evidence to authorities — failing to do so creates an environment that’s encouraging of future incidents.
(HT: Allan H, note that’s as distinguised from reader Alan H.)