Deputy Louise Doublet said that such crimes were ‘commonplace’ and has called for Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida to create a survey to establish the extent of the problem in the Island.
In the States this week, Deputy Guida said incidents of assault – including sexual assault in public spaces and on public transport – were ‘thankfully rare in Jersey’.
Deputy Doublet said such a statement was, at worst, ‘false’ and, at best, ‘misleading’.
Speaking to the JEP after the minister’s response, Deputy Doublet said: ‘I and several other Members in the Chamber were visibly appalled when listening to the [Home Affairs] minister’s ongoing responses to the questions around sexual assault and sexual harassment this morning. He displayed a level of ambivalence which is deeply concerning and an insult to the significant numbers of women who have to deal with sexual assault or sexual harassment on a regular basis.’
She added: ‘We may have low conviction rates but anyone who asks a handful of women in their teens, 20s or 30s will realise that sexual assault and sexual harassment are so commonplace as to be almost universal.’
Her comments have been backed by Zoe Collins-Fisher, the community engagement officer for Jersey Action Against Rape.
She said: ‘It is very commonplace everywhere because, unfortunately, it has become an accepted behaviour. We have a growing waiting list of people who have suffered from all levels of sexual abuse, from cat-calling to sexual assault and rape.’
She added: ‘One in four women and one in five men will have been a victim of sexual assault at some point in their life.’
Jersey police statistics show that over the three-year period from 2018 to 2020, 17% of complaints for rape and serious sexual assault cases resulted in the conviction of offenders.
Reports of sexual violence against women have become increasingly prevalent following the MeToo movement and in response to the rape and murder of Sarah Everard by an off-duty police officer.
Deputy Doublet said: ‘In my role as a States Member people often disclose things to me and I have lost count of the number of women who have told me they were raped or seriously sexually assaulted, and either do not have enough faith in the system to report it, or did report it and were failed by the system.
‘It is time for men who hold power in Jersey to step up, speak out and take action against male perpetrators of sexual, violent and misogynistic crimes. Ambivalence and lack of understanding is just not acceptable any more.’
In Tuesday’s sitting, Deputy Guida also said that there had been no confirmed instances of drink-spiking in Jersey in the last two years.
He said: ‘It may happen and not be declared, but as far as we know it has not happened in Jersey in the last two years – I do not know what else I can say. People have to be careful but this is not a common occurrence in Jersey.’
He added: ‘Spiking a drink and non-consensual sex carry a very heavy penalty in Jersey – I do not know which words I am expected to use for this. People are going to spend years in jail for this, so it is definitely not something that is encouraged by anybody.’
Deputy Doublet said that she, Constable Karen Shenton-Stone, Senator Kristina Moore, Deputy Inna Gardiner and Deputy Mary Le Hegarat had ‘grouped together’ to help tackle the issue.
She said: ‘We have written to the minister to follow up and will ensure he sticks to the commitment he made in response to our questions to facilitate a survey which will establish the extent of the problem in our island.’