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Jamaica's hidden paedophilia problem

Published:Sunday | January 23, 2011 | 12:00 AM

Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Reporter

If paedophilia is a growing problem in Jamaica, the relevant state authorities would not have the foggiest notion of it. It seems this particular kind of child sexual abuse is lost in the nation's carnal abuse statistics.

The Ministry of Health, which has portfolio responsibility for issues affecting children, admitted that it did not have any information on paedophiles in Jamaica. "We are (in the dark)," conceded Dr Judith Leiba, director of child and adolescent mental health in the health ministry.

"We don't know if it is a growing problem. We have no profile of the abuser to determine if they are paedophiles," she added, while declaring that the ministry was concerned about every single case of child abuse.

The 2008 edition of the Economic and Social Survey Jamaica noted that there were 2,232 reports of sexual offences that year. Of the total number, 56 per cent (1,251) were cleared up. Rape accounted for 38 per cent of cases reported, followed by carnal abuse (27.3 per cent), and indecent assault (22.4 per cent).

The reported cases of carnal abuse increased by 42.9 per cent, to 610 from 427 in 2007. The police reported that carnal abuse dipped by seven per cent in 2010 when compared to the numbers for the previous year.

Vanessa Paisley, clinical psycho-logist, said paedophilia was a problem worldwide and Jamaica would be no exception. "We do not have studies on the issue, and internationally, it is difficult to estimate the extent of the problem because paedophilia encompasses problems of carnal abuse, molestation, sexually motivated interactions with children, such as viewing them naked or touching them with sexual organs of the perpetrator, as well as viewing pornography online, and in magazines," she explained.

"As such, it makes the problem very difficult to assess because many cases are not reported or measurable unless the individual seeks help. This is also further complicated by the fact that even fewer cases are reported or recognised for female perpetrators," Paisley added.

Outside the scope

The clinical psychologist believes the handling or assessment of the problem of paedophilia in Jamaica was "outside of the scope of the local authorities such as the CDA (Child Development Agency) as they are not able to access information outside of reported cases, which are made mainly for extreme cases involving sexual abuse".

"And, there would need to be psychological evaluation and diagnosis to be made for paedo-philia to be recognised."

Paisley stressed that it was important to recognise that within the society, there were culturally accepted norms of older men having sexual relationships with younger women.

She argued that even though these relationships are culturally bound, their existence must not be ignored, especially in light of the psychological impact that they can have on the minor involved. "Understanding the extent of the problem is critical and there is need for further investigation," she noted.

tyrone.reid@gleanerjm.com