Blind to abuse! - Mothers not reporting fathers and stepfathers who are sexually abusing their children
The Office of the Children's Registry is reporting an increase in the number of complaints of fathers and stepfathers sexually molesting their children, and it appears that more mothers who are aware of the crime are turning a blind eye.
"We at the Office of the Children's Registry would have seen an increased number of allegations against parents, and more so fathers who would have sexually molested their children," registrar, Greg Smith, told The Sunday Gleaner last week, as he noted that mere babies are included in those abused.
"It is a concern to us, so we are not only focusing on primary school children, but we are also now going at early childhood. We are now partnering with the Early Childhood Commission ... because the cases are now coming in."
An investigator attached to the Child Development Agency later charged that in some instances where fathers and stepfathers are abusing the children, the mother is well aware of the crime but does not intervene for a variety of reasons.
"In one case a girl was molested from she was a toddler until we removed her at around age five. Not only her anatomy was damaged from the sexual abuse, as when she went to school they detected certain things, but she also had a sexually transmitted infection," said the investigator who asked not to be named.
"Our normal and other people's normal are two different things, and talking to this mother (we found out that) she had been molested by her father. So even though she knew what her babyfather was doing she really didn't think anything was wrong with it, because she survived incest. It is for somebody on the outside to come in and counsel with them and say 'no we can't allow this'."
Children's Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison believes it is a feature of the Jamaican society where having been abused as children some women become accepting of abuse as a part of development.
"And so will have comments such as 'it happened to me and I came out fine, I didn't die, so it is a part of life, this too will pass', and he or she will decide when they are adults," said Gordon Harrison.
"Sometimes there is also an economic factor where the woman believes that if she does anything to stop it the family will be jeopardised financially. Or the woman thinks if I allow him to continue to have his way with her then chances are he will stay around and she will continue to have one extra person to put food on the table. So it is a sad reality, but it exists."
For clinical psychologist Dr Karen Richards, while some parents who were abused as children do become desensitised to sexually exploitative or predatory behaviour of adults around them, there are also many parents who, because of their own history of abuse, have become hyper-vigilant, mistrustful and ever watchful over their children and the possibility of abuse.
"Our children are often abused by the ones we trust the most: neighbours, pastors, teachers, relatives, that's why the perpetrator has access, and so in some instances the parent may be so convinced of the trustworthiness of the adult that they doubt the child's account, or the child may not tell, fearing that the status and credibility of the abuser is such that they (the child) would never be believed," said Richards.
"Also fear of the perpetrator is a powerful silencer, coercion and threats can be intertwined with the desensitising effects of grooming, the gentle introduction of pornography, the concept of keeping a shared secret, systematic and persistent violation of physical boundaries, gifts and special treats, etc.
"In some cases, the sexual abuse of the child happens as a part of an overall context of domestic violence, resulting in even other adults in the home being fearful of the abuser."
In the meantime, psychiatrist Professor Wendel Abel says the sexual abuse of children has been rampant in our society from time immemorial, but Jamaicans are finally reaching the stage where they are mature enough to start talking about and dealing with the matter.
"The high level of teenage pregnancy we have had in the country for decades suggests that we have been dealing with this problem of sexual abuse for generations, and many persons will attest to the fact that they are a product of a teenage mother and an adult male; that is sexual abuse," said Abel.