Editors' Forum | Diet of violence! - Children exposed to daily multiple victimisation
Though reports indicate that Jamaica's corporal punishment rating has declined significantly, parents continue to subject children to abuse at home, which, for many, serves as a precursor to the various episodes of violence they experience at school and in their community on a daily basis.
To this end, Maureen Samms-Vaughan, professor of child health and child development in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of the West Indies (UWI), reasoned that children islandwide were undergoing poly-victimisation - the experience of multiple victimisation of various kinds, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, bullying, and exposure to domestic violence.
The educator further explained that one recent local study showed that of 2,000 children averaging 12 years old, only a meagre .4 per cent indicated that they had not been victims of violence of any kind.
"We're creating a society of violence that begins in the home. The children see their parents fighting physically and emotionally. They're victims of corporal punishment in said home, and then they go out in the streets and see the violence in the community and then at school, where they're subjected to more corporal punishment. So it's just a daily diet of violence for our children, and we can't stop one bit of it," Samms-Vaughan told The Gleaner during an Editors' Forum yesterday at the media house's North Street office.
In citing information from the just-launched New Reports on Violence against Children, she stated that there was a direct link between violence against women and the abuse of children.
"In countries where men overpower women with physical abuse, you're going to have high levels of aggression in the society, and you're going to have high levels of corporal punishment. The report also states that moving your country along the human development index does not occur until you address issues of violence. It is part of the Sustainable Development Goals that children's right to be free from fear and aggression is necessary for a country to advance," said Samms-Vaughan.
SET BOUNDARIES TOGETHER
Lamenting the human rights issue, the professor stated that adequate understanding of child development is the first step towards rectifying the issue.
She explained that parents, those with limited access to information on First-World practices in particular, would need support to better comprehend child development and how to address challenges when they arise.
"Discipline comes much later - after the child starts to step out of line. First, you learn to build a relationship with your child. You learn to understand them. You don't set the boundaries alone. Once the child can communicate with you, set them together. The problem that we have in Jamaica is a very authoritarian type of parenting - 'this is what I say', 'this is how it goes', and, 'if you don't fall in line you get beating'," Samms-Vaughan pointed out.
She highlighted that the top ten countries in the world with the highest rates of corporal punishment were all in Africa.
"Europeans are not beating their children in this way. Other societies are not beating their children in this way," Samms-Vaughan said.