Toddlers at risk - Victim support body puts parents on notice as sex-abuse victims, perpetrators get younger
The perpetrators of sexual abuse are getting younger and so, too, are the victims who, according to one expert who interfaces with them after their traumatic ordeals, are as young as two years old.
Osbourne Bailey, director of the Victim Services Division (VSD), whose unit provides counselling for victims of sexual abuse and other crimes, said this trend is one which is becoming more noticeable as the unit carries out its mandate.
“I don’t know if it is because we now have a mechanism to access that they are coming forward, but we have noticed small babies, to the point where we are seeing an increase where when a child tells of a crime, sometimes it is not the first time such a crime is happening to them,” the VSD head told The Sunday Gleaner.
“We are noticing that the perpetrators, too, are getting younger and the range of professions of the perpetrators knows no bounds, so idle boys and ministers of religion are getting in on the act,” said Bailey, who is a pastor and a certified psychologist.
According to the 2018 Economic and Social Survey, among juvenile offenders, a total of 95 males and eight females appeared before the court for sexual offences in 2016. That number increased to 214 males and 16 females in 2017 and 177 males and 10 females in 2018. Sexual offences includes rape, assault with intent to rape, sex with a person under 16 years, carnal abuse, incest, grievous sexual assault, buggery, and gross indecency.
In August of this year, a six-year-old St Thomas child was rushed to the hospital after he was stabbed several times and had his penis amputated by a 16-year-old boy in his community. The teenager was already before the court for allegedly molesting another little boy.
Bailey said that though young boys are being molested, the majority of the victims the VSD interfaces with are females. According to the most recent Economic and Social Survey, the VSD served 13,760 clients (6,088 new) in 2018. Of the new clients, 71.4 per cent were female. Among the new female clients who sought the assistance of the VSD, 33.7 per cent were in the 12-18 age group. The main categories of offence for which clients sought the services of the VSD were sex-related.
Bailey, who has been at the division since 1999, said the lengths of the sexual attacks have also been increasing, according to assessments.
BE MORE VIGILANT
“Years ago, a sexual assault, usually when you checked research-wise, perhaps would not be more than five, 10 minutes. Now a sexual assault is an ordeal, a kidnapping, the taking of pictures, capture and keep,” he lamented, before adding, “It’s like a television show.”
He said most of the children reporting have been sexually abused by individuals they know, and so he has warned parents to be even more vigilant.
“I don’t want to set off an alarm, but I can say to parents, more vigilance is required. In my days, a village used to raise children. That philosophy is dead long time, you have to be careful how you trust families, much less village,” he said.
“It is not that I am trying to make everyone out to be a villain … . I’m just saying, this is not the time for us to be foolish and not be mindful that the statistics are pointing in a certain direction, so you have to be very careful,” he added.
The VSD provides therapeutic intervention to victims of all crimes islandwide. The unit operates under the Ministry of Justice.