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Jamaica resorts facing a ‘historic’ sexual assault problem

In a dark laundry room at a Jamaican Sandals resort, pinned to the floor by a hotel lifeguard, a Michigan teenage girl lay paralyzed with fear as the man bit her lip and raped her, violently robbing her virginity. 

When her mother found her after the assault, trembling and holding herself in a hallway, the 17-year-old couldn’t speak. She could only point to a metal door.

Behind the door, her friend was being gang-raped by three resort lifeguards.

This is the Jamaica that the U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned tourists about. This is the island paradise that the government says has a pervasive sexual assault problem, the place where two Detroit women were raped in September, and an estimated one American is raped each month. 

Over the last seven years, 78 U.S. citizens have been raped in Jamaica according to State Department statistics from 2011-17. The victims include: A mentally handicapped woman in her 20s; an Indiana mother gang-raped by three Cuban soccer players in a resort bathroom stall; a 20-year-old woman raped by two men in her hotel; two Detroit mothers raped at gunpoint in their room; a Kent County teenager and her 21-year-old friend, gang-raped by lifeguards in a locked laundry room at the resort where they were staying.

Oct. 2: Raped in Jamaica: Woman turns gun on attacker who had climbed on her balcony at 5-star hotel

Perhaps most alarming for tourists is that sexual assaults are occurring inside gated resorts — the place they are led to believe that they are most safe. For example, this year, the Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club, where the lifeguard assaults occurred in 2015, was given the Travelers Choice Award by TripAdvisor; it’s the travel group’s highest recognition given to the top 1 percent of hotels. 

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