Psychological and social factors sparking abuse
Dr Beverley Scott, arguably western Jamaica's top family therapist, believes psychological and social factors, which are triggering negative responses in perpetrators, are to be blamed for the high incidences of abuse in parishes such as Westmoreland and Hanover.
Dr Scott, the executive director of the Montego Bay-based Family and Parenting Centre, was responding to a recent statement by Rosalee Grey, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Child Development Agency, who was quoted as saying that the parish of Westmoreland has the most reported cases of abuse across the island.
"We need to take a serious look at the persons who are doing these things, they are frustrated by the harsh economic conditions, hopelessness and the fact that many of them are neither equipped with a skill or have qualifications to get a job," said Dr Scott. ".. so they are hurting emotionally and lash out in bizarre and senseless ways to get someone to give the attention they require.'
Grey, who was speaking at a recent march in Kingston, which was hosted by Dr Michael Abrahams, founder of Protect Our Children, said reports have shown that Westmoreland and Hanover are 'hot spots' for abuse.
"In the reports that we get, we see what we call 'hot spots' such as Westmoreland. The whole belt from just near Savanna-la-Mar, Negril, going back to Green Island, in Hanover, is a hot spot. We see right now in Westmoreland alone, 500 active cases of reports that are being investigated," Grey said.
"We are committed to the task of finding every one of those children and more importantly, we are committed to finding all those men and women who continue to abuse our children," Grey added.
Dr Scott said that based on her own information, the main perpetrators are younger people, who feel marginalised, left without hope, are hurting emotionally and feel the need to lash out to get attention.
"We need to go into the communities and interact with these young people and provide for them by giving them self-employment skills, including barbering, hair dressing and housekeeping among other skills," said Dr Scott. "We need to listen to their concerns and help to guide them to the areas where help is available ... sometimes all they need is guidance."
Dr Scott said more town hall meetings with resource personnel, who are knowledgeable about the law, and agencies that offer capacity building, training and entrepreneurial skills should be held in communities in a bid to inform and educate people and create the social changes that are required.
Dr Scott also lashed out against the age of consent, arguing that at the age of 16, youngsters are being told that they can give consent to sex and all that comes with it, including having children.
"It is the most ridiculous piece of legislation I have ever seen, these youngsters at 16 cannot take care of themselves, yet they are told that they can consent to have sex and have children," said Dr Scott. "It is preposterous that we can grant open licence to children to engage in adult activity and inadvertently saying to adults, yes these youngsters can grant consent for sex."