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Kids abused in special ed - CISOCA data show disabled children face sexual, physical assault in school

Published:Monday | August 26, 2019 | 12:00 AMLynford Simpson/Gleaner Writer

Many children with disabilities (CWDs) are being sexually and physically abused by persons inside the special education facilities that they attend, according to the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).

The Gleaner has learnt, through CISOCA, that young girls under the age of 16 appear to be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse by predators, and some children have even been buggered inside these facilities.

The level of abuse that is meted out to CWDs is usually lost in the overall statistics that are normally presented by the police and child-services agencies. This in a country where the sexual and physical abuse of children is generally rampant, with thousands of such cases being reported annually.

Despite this challenge, The Gleaner was able to get a synopsis of the problem, having obtained limited figures from CISOCA, while trying to ascertain the extent to which CWDs are abused in Jamaica.

According to CISOCA, the information which it provided was available only for the Corporate Area of Kingston and St Andrew.

“This information was collated using schools for children with disabilities in the Corporate Area,” CISOCA said in its written responses to questions posed by The Gleaner.

The figures show that for the period January 2017 to June 24, 2019, a total of 22 incidents of crime were committed against CWDs. CISOCA did not state the nature of these crimes but said that six of them had been cleared up.

For the period January to December 2017, five incidents of crime (against CWDs) were recorded,” said CISOCA. These crimes included one case of rape, two cases of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16, where one was cleared up; one case of grievous sexual assault; and one incident of buggery, which was also cleared up.

CISOCA also told The Gleaner that for the period January to December 2018, ten incidents of crimes committed against CWDs were recorded. These included six incidents where sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 occurred, with one being cleared up; two incidents of rape; one case of indecent assault; and one case of gross indecency which was cleared up.

Since the start of the year and up to June 24, seven incidents of crime were committed against CWDs, including two cases of rape, two cases of grievous sexual assault, one case of buggery, one case of sexual touching, and one incident of indecent assault. CISOCA said one incident of rape and one incident of buggery were cleared up during the period.

While these incidents of sexual and physical abuse were committed against children with disabilities, CISOCA reported 375 cases of sexual abuse against children in the general population within Kingston and St Andrew up to the first week in June this year.

Head of CISOCA Senior Superintendent Charmine Shand told a Rotary Club of Kingston meeting in June that the majority of the cases involved children who had been raped, sexually groomed, or inappropriately touched by persons, including educators. At the time, she did not state that children with disabilities were among them or were being abused at the very schools they attend.

In responding to questions from The Gleaner, CISOCA did not indicate whether the cleared-up cases meant an arrest, and, or conviction, or whether the perpetrators are no longer connected to the institutions in question.

Speaking of the overall number of sexual abuse cases involving children in the Corporate Area in the first six months of the year, Shand said in June: “Since the start of the year, this is what we have before us: 375 cases, (including) 103 cases of rape; 182 (cases of) sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16; seventeen cases of sexual touching, and, bear in mind, we have 21 cases of grievous sexual assault, and we have sexual grooming.”

Meanwhile, professionals, in particular counsellors who work with CWDs, have indicated that they are more likely to be sexually abused as they are often unable to relate what has happened to them.

That is the case for children with severe physical and, or mental health disorders.