14-year-old raped, killed and burnt – a troubling new normal in Jamaica`

By R.D. Miller

Her Story/Their Stories

Photo Credit: Latoya Riley, the mother of 14 year-old Yetanya Francis

Gone too Soon

How do you comfort the mother of young Yetanya Francis, who was raped, murdered, and her lifeless body found on August 24, 2018, after simply being out on an errand for her mother?

She was the pride and joy of her family, loved by her classmates, and with a promising future that cut short. Regrettably, there will other young people whose lives will be cut short from violence, including several who are still missing and unresolved.

Who will be next on the list of sexual predators list who maybe be depressed, suffering from schizophrenia disorders or bipolar disorder, or simply a thug causing mayhem still roaming these local streets?

The reality is that, crime is causing the soft wind that glides over your face and the beam of sunshine and smile that greets you with a sense of tranquility; now forcing many communities to only be up at sunrise, but gated in at dusk unless you are in one of those tourist protected zones.

I like to pick my apple and mango now and then and wait until “Ras” fish lunch is served in his homemade bowl that I cannot tell what was the original color anytime I arrived, thank you?

Nonetheless, a few will admit that these cherished moments from that sense of freedom, these negative headlines have left many students grappling with fear and the psychological trauma of losing their classmates, a friend while parents are afraid to send their daughters or son’s to school or a local store.

This young lady’s premature death, in particular, is one of many where other parents are still seeking answers is not unique to Jamaica and other troubled island’s with beautiful shores.  However, the difference now is that social media has taken these stories of these victims and responses by elected officials globally and there will be more to come.

Sure, violence is ubiquitous, but sadly it seems the first tactic to solving these violent crimes often is blaming from hopelessness, and deflecting pointing to nations with similar stories, which is minimization in disguise.

But 13-year-old Aliesha Brown, who went missing and was later found dead on October 2, 2014, is another reminder, along with several heinous crimes since her death.

Photo Credit: Jamaica Observer, (Associated Pres/J-Flag

Dwayne Jones, a transgender teen, 16 was also savagely murdered by a mob after he attended a street party in women’s clothing.

Many parents also experience discrimination for giving birth to gay children and are more worried today about social stigma and hostility than their future. The hostility has created safety concerns, a sense of feeling guilty, and that often results in abuse, lack of resources, and access to medical care ,homelessness, and death.

Imagine these parents who must show up on a mountainside, in a valley, or looking at a stream or a morgue where their child’s lifeless body lies and little or no victim’s support to minimize the pain. 

Sure, I am not suggesting the entire country is isolated, and there’s violence everywhere. Many people are still arriving for weddings, pleasant vacations. And others with deep roots visiting a grandma, an uncle, aunt, or other family members, but how long will these trips remain frequent if these headlines continue. 

The delicate empathy for justice

While violence is rampant across many regions, these criminals (thugs) abduct students, leaving families counting on a child’s return for days. They murder intellectuals, sports icons, youth, seniors, entrepreneurs; business owners, and women in many domestic violence incidents, in terms of local reports.

Often in response to these barbaric atrocities, the justice of the vigilantes, which may ruin innocent people’s lives and does get to the root of this problem, nor a visit to a victim’s patents home by the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, despite good intentions of comfort, a tight hug, or heartfelt speeches by other leaders, it cannot reverse this pattern of criminality and family pain that nee new policies, and minimize this ongoing barbaric behavior.

Several experts noted that combating crime requires a wide range of early detection,, accountability, resources community engagement, but also accept that the nation has serious crime issues to change this criminal behavior by a few mentally ill individuals.

The 3-4 days of media bliss hoping to portray a false sense of empathy does not break a possible serial killer’s next mission because time is this person’s weapon and crime of opportunity.

Jamaica’s ‘cool running vibes and local smiles have not washed out to the ocean despite the negative headlines. The shops in the local area where you can repair a flat tire at a restaurant stuck against the mountain selling authentic local dishes from Jamaica still welcome everyone.

Even the white sand and turquoise water, as the sunbeams through trees, with a cool breeze that can make you feel as if you are shedding your skin like a snake to take on a new identity and temporarily forgetting your troubles as if you were at a spa remain intact.

But these natural events and postcard sometimes what appears normal is not always healthy because there are pockets of danger in some areas remain like a snake venom despite its new beautiful skin can strike anytime.

The ongoing delicate dance

I wondered whether religious institutions, advocates, counselors, teachers, to mediate of these communities can no longer inspire, calm fear and bring hope and peace in these troubled times.

Many are now seen from the pulpit through political parties lens, or turning a blind eye from criminals for their survival. It seems all disputes today are resolved by the person who has the best weapon.

How did Jamaica get to this point and other problematic regions?

This is a fight to separate the perception of reality and who is responsible. Unfortunately, these concerns and outrages often seem short-lived in a couple of news cycles. Equally important, many elected leaders who are in denial with selective amnesia simply only positioning themselves for the revolving election door in which they failed while in power.

And that deafening silence has contributed a sense of normality by a few. How many times, these same stories emerge, where leader default, “we are going to look for solutions and where local concerns voices seem to be drowned out.

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How do you expect the next generation to dream, and hope for a better future if all they are seeing their peers’ lives cut short, and with little or no positive outcome?

Of course, the nation has implemented crime control models to eradicate this criminal cancer, but many believe they have done little to discourage easy access to high-potency weapons, reduce gangs, and other criminal activities.

Many murder cases are still unresolved because of a lack of technical skills and resources or a police force that is too limited to cover these dense areas, and no one is talking many from fear of becoming a victim if they speak up due to limited support or protection.

Though this story is about a young student who was taken too soon, others also are forgotten because of his or her sexual orientation and they do not have a voice. Their family could also use a hug or case status update.

If this criminal cancer goes untreated, it is only going to worse and to the fabric of the nation that will add more socioeconomic decay.

The murder, kidnapping, assaults, rape, robberies, and exploitation of young girls, is solely not someone having a bad day or something new.

Photo by KALZud8

It is a combination of a systematic problem that repeatedly gets pushed to the side without accountability. It seems many communities have become emotionally detached and immune from the constant news of violence.

Few people would argue against the fact that poverty, economic stagnation, reported corruption, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, high unemployment rates have led to some of this social decay.

If, as reported, some who are sworn to serve and protect now wind up with case numbers from their criminal activities, it also only erodes trust. And in a system where police mistrust goes back to colonial times, it makes it very difficult for some to follow the rule of law, and speak up.

Another wave that is rarely told.

This is far from the relaxed and trouble-free ambiance of Jamaica, and few other troubled islands which often welcomed visitors and returning residents. The Jamaica Observer reported that in 2017 alone, over 1,600 lives were lost from violence.

These are just a few other stories along these beautiful shores.

The death of Delroy Walker in May 2018 is another reminder of the danger that few people recognize and or others locally will admit. He was stabbed and murdered on his return to Jamaica to enjoy his retreat to Britain while giving back to the youths ‘

Photo credit: Steve Walker, whose brother Delroy Walker was murdered in Jamaica

He has championed youth by giving back and using his skills and resources through his charitable organization. This untimely death robbed the youth of a shot of success, those who yearn for a sunbeam that is getting cloudier on these shores.

Delroy’s death further stymies many charitable barrels of goods slated for the island to help others now under reconsideration or listed on eBay and Amazon, held in a basement or storage center because of safety concerns.

Although his killers may have been caught, the criminal enterprises silently devastating these once-safe communities are a major threat to a normal life. When youth have no hope or even lack the resources to chart a vision, crime becomes more attractive.

Karen Cleary, 44, had been building her dream home in the country of her birth when she went missing on Sunday, November 25. They found her body buried in a shallow grave on her property in Boscobel, St Mary.

The Bahamas, Carlis Blatch, assistant to the governor-general, was gunned down while waiting for his son from school, according to the Nassau Guardian. When honest, hard-working, and successful individuals who want to help are now considered a threat, the region loses and remittances alone cannot solve these systemic problems.

Other reports noted that since the beginning of 2000, over 200 British, American and Canadian ex-pats have been murdered and, since the beginning of 2018, they have killed over 500. Many believe that violent gangs and the ongoing lottery scam in big cities as reported remain a problem where expatriates are considered by criminals as soft targets.

Much needed mental shift.

Yes! I understand; criminality, poverty, inequality, and socio-economic problems are omnipresent.

The education system essential to preparing the next generation of leaders and rebuilding the middle class appears to have declined. Today, many youths have dropped out of school, suffer from addiction and mental health problems, and those with higher education have little chance of advancement buried under students loans and empty promises.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny

When these crimes occur, many appeals for change on social media, but what is troubling; these headlines dissipate quickly. However, not only for students, if many meeting places have become more isolated and indoors because of security concerns, something has to change, and like mom’s once said, “pure talk never get anything done”.

Many of our parents may not know how this beautiful place have more bad headlines today than good, but the sun will rise again, and you must continue to speak up.

Today, Jamaica’s main economic engine is tourism, but the young people I have met are not betting their future on visitors alone. They are tired of photo ops and want tangible options, leadership with a vested interest in their future to grow and dream, knowledge of the competitive world to lead, make a contribution to the next generation and not just personal gains into a gated community.

Photo by James Wheeler

Despite these atrocities trying to take over these neighborhoods; Jamaica has never lost its fierce perspective, values, pride, vigor, and tenacity. Many communities will glance forward to the weekend just to enjoy themselves. However, they must unleash their determination, even that boisterous manner to reclaim their economic security and confidence. Because only an individual can determine what is ordinary or modify and correct, what is not.

Composing this article was therapeutic because I wonder what 14—year-old Yetanya Francis, 13-year-old Aliesha Brown, and others missing destiny would be. There are and will be many more stories like these victims, and when does the next, and photo-up stops, and the next button to establish an appeal to action. I still wish I could have shifted place with their mothers after watching the sadness that stayed with me further than these weddings.