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Mandeville Baptist seeks to break the cycle of Child Abuse

Published:Wednesday | May 13, 2015 | 11:06 PM

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:

AT A time when violence against children continues to rise at an alarming rate, the Mandeville Baptist Church, in partnership with the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA), has begun a series of meetings to create awareness for this growing malady and offer meaningful solutions.

The first forum, recently held on the church grounds, saw the attendance of representatives from the Child Development Agency, the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, and other representatives of the police force and the Ministry of Education. Speakers presented on the topic of 'Breaking the Cycle of Violence affecting Our Children'.

With recent statistics from the Office of the Children's Registry (OCR) highlighting the killing of 45 of the nation's children between January 1 and April 15, as compared to 45 for last year, Michael Coombs, regional director, SRHA, said this is cause for concern.

"We believe that a lot of what we see happening around us in our society is linked to a breakdown of our homes and families. Fatherless children are nine times more likely to be abused sexually. Between 2007 and 2013, sexual abuse reports increased from 121 to 3,386. Now what we need to ask ourselves is, is this trend more than simply under-reporting?" Coombs told the gathering.

"Over 90 per cent of children who reported being sexually abused were girls and, in addition to that, by far, a majority of the abusers are males. Between 2007 and 2013, approximately 4,000 sexually abused children reported to the OCR were under 12 years old ... there are many more cases that have not been reported, and that's a problem. We need to find a solution."

Having focused more on protecting victims than helping or preventing abusers in the past, Coombs said a new approach should be explored.

"When you think of this issue, remember we are dealing with two sets of individuals; the victims and the perpetrators. Quite often, we tend to think a lot about the victims in terms of protecting them, and think of the perpetrators on how to apply the law to them. But we have to look at what causes someone to be a perpetrator, what are the factors that contribute to a person sexually abusing a child, and what reduces the likelihood of someone committing such a crime ... ."