If sexual assault was a virus, Paceville would be a super spreader. And yet not a single person has been found guilty of this crime there in the last five years.
According to police figures, just 30 reports of sexual harassment were filed in St. Julian’s area, which includes Paceville, between 2015 and 2020.
Each year doesn’t see more than 10 reports being made. Four were made in 2015, 2016 and 2017 while 2018 saw the highest amount with nine reports making it to the desks of police. In 2019, that figure dropped to eight reports of sexual abuse and 2020, in which clubs were only open for less than three months, saw just one report.
Victims who filed these reports were overwhelmingly women, from ages between 15 and 59. Just one report in the last five years, in 2019, was made by a man.
From the 30 reports made in the last half-decade, police charged and arraigned 12 suspects. Two were found not guilty by courts, while other cases are still ongoing.
After receiving nearly 1,000 anonymous reports of sexual assault, Lovin Malta has been publishing these alarming stories in a multi-article series. From family abuse, workplace harassment, digital coercion, and intimate partner violence, the majority of participants said clubs was the place of assault.
Clubgoers and even some staff recounted how they were raped, groped, drugged while on a night-out in St. Julians. The fact that none of the participants reported their incidents to club staff and only a handful reported to police is no surprise when looking at these fresh figures.
To add to the injury, the fact that no one has ever been sentenced for committed sexual assault in Paceville in the last five years might make victims question whether speaking up is even worth it in the first place. It comes as no surprise then that 85% of sexual assault go unreported in Malta.
Lovin Malta also spoke to police about how such crimes are dealt with.
“The force treats sexual assault cases with the utmost discretion and sensitivity. In cases like this, investigative procedures on incidents of sexual assault in clubs are similar to incidents which take place in a private residence or out in the street,” a police spokesperson explained.
Initially, the first responders are the divisional police and in many cases, they are assisted by the Vice Squad.
“This depends on a lot of factors especially the seriousness of the alleged offence,” they said.
Apart from informing the duty magistrate to carry out the inquest and appoint experts to assist to gather and preserve all relevant evidence, the alleged victim is taken to Mater Dei Hospital where he or she is visited by the Sexual Assault Response Team, known as SART.
“Once the victim is given the necessary medical and psychological assistance, the police can continue with their investigations,” the spokesperson added.
The Victim Support Unit is present throughout the whole process, to ensure that victims are given the support they deserve during this difficult time. If the nature of the offence turns out to be of a domestic nature, the Gender-Based Domestic Violence Unit is roped in to continue with the case.
Malta needs to empower victims of sexual assault to speak out. Removing time-bars on sexual abuse cases could be a vital step in justice for victims. Furthermore, local clubs should adopt systems that help patrons feel comfortable to speak out and seek help when they need it.
If you have suffered sexual assault, whether it was recently or not, and would like free, professional emotional support or legal assistance, get in touch with Victim Support Malta on + 356 2122 8333 or send an email to [email protected].
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