Girls should get proper help - expert
Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
At least one expert is advising that professional help should be given to the younger girls who were victims of sexual attacks by their older schoolmates at some schools as the issue could have a major psychological impact on the students' lives.
Psychologist Dr Karen Richards told The Gleaner yesterday that action should also be taken against the perpetrators highlighted last week at an all-girls school in the Corporate Area, as the attacks should not be taken lightly.
"Counselling and some form of professional intervention should be made available should the child be willing to engage. The parents may need some input, helping them to know how best to deal with it and the individual child might need some support," Richard said.
"We can't excuse these practices as just kids together establishing their boundaries, having fun. No, these are assaults and these are things that you could never do in a workplace, you could never do out there on the streets without finding yourself in trouble with the law and the law therefore must reflect that to these children," she argued.
Rite of passage
In explaining the behaviour of the students involved in the act, Richards said the youths are at an age where there is often a rite of passage.
"The students use the activity to prove themselves as worthy by submitting the most to this abuse. It is really a rite of passage to belong to the group. You have got to suffer and those in the group determine what kind of suffering those out of the group must go through in order to be a part of the group," she said.
Richards said she has had cases where children have been sexually assaulted by older children but the cases had to be examined carefully as oftentimes the perpetrators have themselves been victims of sexual abuse.
In the meantime, the Paediatric Association of Jamaica said assistance must be provided for the students involved because, as adolescents make the often difficult transition into adulthood, they have many developmental issues to face, one of which is developing their sexual identity and learning how to have age-appropriate relationships.
"During middle adolescence (approximately 14-16 years of age) in particular, many adolescents as they try to understand themselves, may become involved in experimental behaviours with either the opposite or the same sex.
"During this time, adolescents can benefit tremendously from the presence of understanding adults who can appropriately guide them as they make choices, and help them to learn from their decisions," the association said.
The group recommended the creation of an open forum to foster useful discussion and solutions for the students.
"This may benefit adolescents who find themselves uncertain with respect to their sexuality and earnestly seeking some kind of guidance in what can be a really difficult time," the group added.
The association said it was the responsibility of the state, school and parent-teachers association when they accept the care of the children to provide a safe environment.
"This would allow our children to mature, and achieve their full potential to the benefit of themselves, their families and the nation. The vulnerable must be protected and the perpetrators counselled and healed," the group added.