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Say it if you see it: ‘Break the Silence’ on child abuse

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Janet Cupidon-Quallo, UNICEF's child protection specialist, addressing the launch of the Office of the Children's 'Break the Silence' campaign.

The Office of the Children's Registry (OCR), last Thursday, launched its 'Break the Silence' campaign, which is primarily targeted at adults and seeks to increase reports of child abuse.

The tag line 'Break the Silence' was developed after an islandwide survey showed that more than 50 per cent of Jamaican adults had knowledge of children being abused but only 11 per cent had ever reported it.

The initiative is supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and is a direct response to the 'Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices' survey on child maltreatment in Jamaica, which the agency commissioned.

Break the Silence also reaches out to children themselves through a junior campaign called 'Enough', which encourages children to take a stand against child abuse by reporting it to the OCR.

Speaking at the launch, the registrar for the OCR, Greig Smith, emphasised that the reporting process is entirely confidential.

"We are getting increased reports of child abuse; however, our baseline study has revealed that 90 per cent of known or suspected cases of child abuse often go unreported due to myths and stigma. We are asking all Jamaicans to come on board with us in support of this campaign," said Smith.

The OCR has received more than 47,000 reports of child abuse since its 2007 inception.

"Making a report is not always easy," argued Janet Cupidon-Quallo, UNICEF's child protection specialist.

"It calls for courage, boldness, selflessness, and empathy. The fears and misgivings that people have are not without justification, but nevertheless, it must be done, it should be done. The possible consequences for the abused child must be the deciding factor."

Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna, whose ministry is responsible for the OCR, noted that the agency has put several important measures in place, including increased call centre hours and increased training for call centre volunteers.

"Over the past two years, we have done a number of things to ramp up the understanding of child protection," said Hanna, as she argued that it is important to get other ministries and the public involved with solving the issue of child abuse in Jamaica.

"In order for us to move forward and to not be alarmed every time something happens, every individual has to take responsibility for child protection. If we are really serious about child protection, then breaking the silence is important," said Hanna.