This island’s child protection agency has intensified its efforts at trying to stamp out an apparent upsurge in sex involving students in schools.
Child Care Board Senior Child Care Officer and child abuse coordinator, Colin St Hill told Barbados TODAY, his agency had recently started to work much closer with the ministry of education to deal with the matter.
“The Child Care Board has been working very closely with the Ministry of Education on these matters in an effort to provide education to the principals. It is only recently the Ministry of Education facilitated a panel discussion with principals, members of the police force and the Child Care Board, where we provided information to all primary school principals on how to proceed with matters as they relate to child sexual abuse within the school system,” St Hill disclosed against a background of an overall drop in cases so far this year.
“So we would have provided that type of information, helped to give them some guidelines and we had dialogue, so that if there were any questions, they would be able to get them clarified. So that is one of the approaches we have used in recent times, and I believe that will bear fruit, because the knowledge in terms of how to proceed is critical in helping some of these children, who were abused,” the senior child care officer pointed out.
“What I must say,” added the child abuse coordinator, “one would find that it is within the school system that disclosure sometimes quite often takes place. So, even if a child [is] being sexually abused at home, sometimes it might more come to the attention of a fellow student, or a class teacher who then in turn will provide the principal with the information, who then in turn will notify the Ministry of Education and the Child Care Board; and that is how many of our investigations would come about.”
St Hill also dealt with a challenge facing the board, in which some parents have either been refusing to bring charges against those accused of sexually abusing their children, or pulling out of court proceedings already started. While it is known that government is in the process of introducing legislation that will take prosecution of child sexual abuse out of the hands of an individual, the senior officer could not say what progress has been made.
However, he outlined some of the reasons parents are declining to follow through with court cases when their children are abused, especially by family members, boyfriends or even neighbours.
“There are a number of reasons why parents at times might want to pull out. It could be a genuine case in which the parent really believes that it might not be in their child’s best interest to proceed with the matter because of the whole trauma of the child going before the court. Some parents have stated that as part of the reason why they do not want to proceed with the matter,” he revealed.
“Some,” St. Hill continued, “have stated that the court system… it takes too long, and when they have to go to work, some of them work on a daily basis and they are missing out on a day’s pay.”
The child abuse coordinator said, too, that parents also complain of attending court on many occasions and each time the matter got adjourned, resulting in frustration at the length of time it took for cases to conclude.
Bribery was also another reasoned identified. “On the other hand, we have some parents who maybe … are willing to take money. I have heard of these situations, but I have no evidence to substantiate, but people drop comments that this mother took money, and that in itself could be a dangerous trend, if it is occurring,” declared the Child Care Board top official.
He argued that such alleged bribery sent a message to the child, that their are worth X amount of money, “and it could have implications for that child, how he or she feels about himself as a result of the mother taking money, or the parent taking money.”