Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Be sensitive to sex-abuse reporters, JCF

Published:Monday | November 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The recent arrest of a mother reporting the sexual abuse of her son is a glaring example of the weaknesses of the police force in handling sensitive matters.

Notwithstanding the establishment of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) within the police force, there continue to be complaints by many Jamaicans, including women reporting incidences of sexual violence, about the lack of sensitivity displayed by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

While a specialised unit within the force is a welcome initiative, there is an urgent need to ensure that the majority of, if not all, police officers are equipped with the requisite tools to receive, record and sensitively respond to victims who attend any police station to report an incident of sexual violence, particularly against children. The Clark's Town arrest is a vivid representation of the gaps within the system.

We are of the view that any parent or civilian who seeks to report sexual abuse to the police should be accorded with due regard to the potential emotional trauma that comes with being, or being close to, the victim of such a violent crime. This due regard should be heightened where the victim is a child, particularly a child of tender years. It cannot be considered good practice for the police to arrest anyone who does not act docile or agreeable enough when making a report.

The Clark's Town arrest raises several red flags.

There are significant challenges with how the incident occurred. The police did not immediately call the Child Development Agency or CISOCA upon recognising that the incident involved sexual abuse of a minor. The police proceeded to arrest a mother, who, from all indications, was the sole caregiver of her children, in front of her children, with the potential impact of retraumatising a child who just went through significant trauma.

We, therefore, urge the JCF High Command to take steps to sanction the officer who carried out the arrest, as well as begin a process of sensitising police officers about the appropriate way to handle incidences of child sexual abuse.