Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Dire situation faced by our children

Published:Thursday | March 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I have been waiting with bated breath to hear of a comprehensive plan to address the scourge of sexual molestation, and abuse of our children. Haven't we heard enough to prod us into action beyond wearing black or making a post or two on social media? We pontificate every so often that our children are our future, but the more I hear news reports of the trauma so many of them have faced and are undergoing, the more I wonder if we really care.

Why are our mothers, fathers, teachers, and preachers so deafeningly silent about the abuse of our children? What is it that causes us to be so unperturbed? Why do we refuse to report these incidents to the relevant authorities?

We cannot afford to pussyfoot while our children are in anguish, craving our disquiet.

The case of Alicia, the 12-year-old from north Clarendon who in two months will become a mother, as reported in this paper on March 15, 2015, is evidence of the dire situation faced by many of our children. Police are also investigating the case of a 14 year-old girl (now pregnant) in the same area who was raped.

Alicia was sexually abused by her cousin and uncle and is reportedly pregnant for her 52-year-old relative. She is the (eldest?) daughter of a 28-year-old who has four children. It is unlikely that Alicia will realise her dream of becoming a judge - especially if she has another child anytime soon (read before 20 years). Evidence shows that teen pregnancy as well as the timing and spacing of their second child often trap them in poverty for many years. Furthermore, while there is a policy for the readmission of girls like Alicia in schools, she may never return because of, among other things, the school's unwillingness to readmit her and her fear of being discriminated against by her peers. She might also have to stay home to work with her mother on the farm and care for her child and three younger siblings.

 

Failed our children

 

Do we not realise that we have failed our children time and again? Perhaps it's difficult to see through our heavily tinted vehicles and all shades of white garb. There are so many cases islandwide but we aren't very concerned - except when we flare up like a fuse after news reports for a couple hours, and if our children are lucky, for a couple days.

What is even worse is that if Alicia and her mother wanted, they cannot legally terminate the 12-year-old's pregnancy. Why should women and girls bear such burden because of our archaic and ridiculous values and beliefs? What also bothers me is how excited we are about children having children and their children having children. On top of that, we glorify the men impregnating them. Yes, children are precious but that doesn't mean they are for children. How easily we forget the circumstances under which these children are born and the suffering they'll experience.

We cannot continue like this! Our children should not have to suffer like this.

 

Cliff Hughes 'Impact'

 

I commend and thank Cliff Hughes for his sober programme - 'Impact' - on Sunday, March 15, 2015 on CVM TV with young women who were sexually abused as a child. Very rarely do we give them an opportunity to share their experience. I guess their testimony might embarrass us too much and expose our gross negligence to protect them and act in their best interest over the years. Frighteningly, we aren't hearing about our boys who are being abused by men and women in their communities. Let us seek to engender a society where they, too, can come forward to report their abusers.

I think it is urgent that the nation (or at least those of us who care) be apprised by the relevant agencies of the number

of reports made to the Office of

the Children's Registry, the number/ percentage of those reports investigated by the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, and of that amount, the number/percentage of arrests and prosecutions made over the last five years. There have been too many cases and too little information. Many testimonies I have heard point to impunity of the offenders so it would also be good to know why these men and women aren't being charged.

Let us develop a strategy to address this issue frontally. Let us hold ourselves accountable to the rights of our children. Let us support the authorities to apprehend the perpetrators of these heinous crimes and secure justice for our children. Let us not be silent anymore.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.