Silence continues to be the major challenge in the battle against child sexual abuse in Barbados, according to Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett.
However, he said understanding new technologies is the strongest weapon in this battle.
The minister was addressing the opening of the first of two sensitisation conferences for health professionals under the theme Let’s Break The Silence On Child Sexual Abuse at the Hilton Barbados in Needham’s Point, St Michael this morning.
Blackett said sexual predators were not only lurking in neighbourhoods and schools, but on the internet as well and warned that this could have long term consequences for the island.
“Everyone knows that child abuse is morally wrong yet a minority of the population continues to breach the trust of children and exploit their innocence and status. As adults, parents, guardians and professionals who come into contact with children on a daily basis we must educate ourselves about these things, in particular, the technology. Whenever the opportunity arises offer appropriate and sound advice to those children who engage our attention. Children represent a vulnerable population since they depend upon others for their development . . . As a result, we need to take the necessary steps to assist them. We, as adult citizens of Barbados, need to reclaim our children from whatever negative forces that overshadow their development,” the minister said.
During the period 2008 to 2009 and 2012 to 2013, the Child Care Board recorded 1,013 referrals of alleged child sexual abuse out of a total of 5,800 referrals.
This number, Blackett stressed, was significant since it represented approximately 17 per cent of all referrals.
However, he noted that it is difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem due to significant under-reporting.
Today’s discussion focused on Mandatory Reporting Protocol conducted by Legal COnsultant Faith Marshall-Harris; How Do You Know? Sexual Abuse Awareness, The Investigation Process conducted by Inspector Caroline Blackman-Alleyne of the Sex Crime Unit, as well as How To Respond To The Psychological Needs Of The Child And Family Post Disclosure Of child Sexual Abuse by pediatric and adult psychiatrist Dr Shirley Alleyne.