Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator
A mother takes her two-year-old infant daughter to a rural clinic with severe vaginal tearing. When quizzed, she claims a duck pecked the child. The matter is reported to the police, but they maintain that they cannot refute the mother's story.
The two-year-old is later diagnosed with gonorrhoea. But even then, the investigation is slow and tedious.
Another mother of four is terrified of her husband. One night she awoke to find him sexually molesting their four-year-old baby daughter.
She turns to her community clinic in rural Jamaica for help. Clinic officials call the police and convince the woman to move in with her mother.
But her mother states she can't afford to keep her and the children. This forces the terrified mother to return home to the abuser, who is the only breadwinner.
Now living at the home with her three girls and one son with a man she is afraid will continue to abuse her daughters, she has turned away from the clinic. And the police in the community are claiming their hands are tied.
Sitting with The Sunday Gleaner inside a community health centre in rural St Andrew last week, health-care workers from a number of rural health centres relive the many stories of child abuse they have to deal with on a daily basis, but are powerless to change because of very little support from the relevant agencies to help combat this scourge.
"We are at a loss as to what to do. We try everything we can to get help, making reports to police and the places they send us, but we keep getting the runaround and the problems continue," said one healthcare worker.
"We also have to live in fear for our lives because some of the men doing these things are known bad men in their communities, plus, a lot of them have relationships with the police, and as bad as it sounds, the police tend to be on their side.
"So no matter how many times we go to them, the police do not act," said another.
"And the police in some communities have no teeth, they are afraid," one healthcare worker charged.
"If we don't do our jobs, they tell us we can be arrested and charged. Yet when we try doing our jobs, we get no support, no action is taken, so what do we do?" one asked.
"Plus, we are not guaranteed protection by the police," added another.
The health-care workers believe dealing with child abuse in certain sectors of Jamaica is one of the biggest challenges, mainly because of the social and psychological culturalisation of those communities.
"What more developed areas of our society consider an outrage is considered the norm in other parts of society," one health worker said.
In their communities, stories abound of girls as young as 12 years having babies for and/or living with much older men.
They also have the reverse of teenage boys living with much older female lovers. So-called responsible adults often know, but instead of reporting the matter, they encourage it.
It is also the norm for fathers to impregnate their daughters.
One clinic worker said she has a careful eye on one woman who hates her baby.
"Because the baby is her brother. She said her own child should not be her brother," she shared.
Another tells the story of two sisters who ended up giving birth the same night to children for their own father.
"The older sister, 22, was cussing the younger one, who is 17. She said she told her to run away, to run far, but instead here she was having a baby for her own father, while she was on her second child for him," said the worker.
One professional said they have to be working closely with one school to provide girls as young as 11 years old with contraceptive.
They have discovered that bus drivers in the community are paying the older girls to lure the seventh graders to take certain buses, where the drivers take them away to secluded spots and sexually assault them.
She charged that despite several reports to the police, the problem persists.
"Children are exposed too early to sexuality. Today's society is telling children that it is okay to explore their sexuality at a much younger age.
"They see it on the TV, in everyday life, they hear it in the music, it is always in their face, so they want to experiment, as they see it as a normal part of life," said one health-care worker.