23-year-old BDF soldier, Micah Miguel is going to be laid to rest sometime next week and her family is still having to grapple with the circumstances under which she died. As we said yesterday, it is not considered good journalistic judgement to report on suicides, but it seems that it is much more than just her taking her own life. Questions remain over why she took this drastic step. Love News has been receiving several pieces of information which suggest that Miguel took her life because of a sustained psychological attack that presumably emanates from a culture of silence against sexual assault in the BDF. Miguel’s abuse began more than two years ago, in January 2020, when she entered the force as a recruit. She was part of Intake 65,. She was one of 100 recruits who were interviewed by a Special Investigative Team which was investigating allegations of misconduct in the training company within the BDF. At that time, the Ministry of National Security assigned a special team to investigate the reports of misconduct, extortion, maltreatment, sexual assault and sexual advances made against recruits. Miguel told the interviewers that there was an inappropriate incident towards her by a soldier, who was a corporal at the time. Three of her fellow recruits were also witnesses to the incident. However, the report says that the matter was referred to the force’s intelligence authority and training administration and (quote) “took appropriate action” but there’s no clarity on what that action was
The incident was deemed an administrative matter and the report adds that there was (quote) “no sign of any sexual assault [that] can be established base[d] on her statement or interview given by her” (End quote). In addition to reports of sexual assault and violence, recruits also reported that racism was expressed in the way instructors interacted with recruits. As for sexual violence, all the report does is say that further investigation is needed. And that brings us to two weeks ago when Miguel was placed on suicide watch. The reason that happened is that Miguel lived in what appeared to be a culture of fear and sustained psychological violence – and that’s putting it mildly – perpetuated by senior officers who are still in the force as of this moment. It’s a culture, which we are told, is reflected in yet another suicide attempt by a BDF as recently as this past weekend. As for the situation with Miguel, the family is expected to speak more about the circumstances in due course. For now, the reports we’ve received paint a very dark, sinister culture of violence, mistreatment and fear, which recruits are reluctant to speak out against. The 2020 report found that (quote) “there seems to be a lack of confidentiality when recruits give a report against instructors causing recruits not to be willing to come forward to give reports” (End quote).
The report recommended that a counsellor is needed to provide support to members of the force and particularly a female should form a part of the force’s intelligence team to ensure other females could make a report without any fear in cases of sexual assault or harassment. Most importantly, an investigation to ascertain the scope and gravity of sexual violence within the BDF should be conducted to include all other units within the force. The team comprised representatives of the Police Department, the BDF, the National Women’s Commission, the then Ministry of National Security and the Civilian Complaint Review Committee. We’ll keep following this story.