Last Sunday, June 19, we celebrated Father’s Day by acknowledging the role of the father in the lives of their children. Many families around the world spent the day reminiscing over the good times they cherish and love. Some took fathers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while some spent quiet moments reflecting on past times.
I congratulate all fathers for their positive and continued involvement in the lives of their children. To a greater extent, I expressed deep admiration for the ones, who are committed, loving, dependable, understanding and who spend valuable time with their children.
While fathers were being celebrated last Sunday, it was also the International Day For The Elimination Of Sexual Violence Against Children.
Child sexual abuse is a form of sexual violence against a child, and it is considered “the best kept secret” all over the world. Over the years, children in Barbados have been the victims of this scourge and, for several reasons,
it continues to be a major problem in our society.
There are still too many cases of child sexual abuse in Barbados; and, in my assessment, the child is the victim who suffers major psychological drawbacks from this dreaded behaviour.
Some fathers and stepfathers see children as their possessions and therefore strongly believe they have the right to have sexual intercourse with them or perform other deviant acts of sexual aggression. The reality of examining this from all perspectives is that the children, who have been the victims of this scourge, will become adults in the future.
We will expect these children to be well-adjusted individuals and to function effectively in our society. How can these individuals function effectively and efficiently in our society, if we expose them to inappropriate sexual behaviours at the early stage of their development and mistreat them in every manner?
We must also remember that this behaviour can be copied from the abuser and, hence, transferred from one generation to the other.
The traumatic events of this experience can permanently destroy children. Many of them feel betrayed, stigmatized, helpless, hopeless and will suffer low self-esteem and low self-worth. As a result, it can also have a direct impact on how they view the world and on how they should behave in society.
There is also an increase in sexual abuse among boys in Barbados. The research out there suggests that boys who have been sexually abused tend to get involved in deviant and criminal behaviour.
We have been experiencing an upsurge in violent behaviour, and the authorities cannot seem to make the connection between children who have been abused and the ugly ramifications of this behaviour. Child sexual abuse is a precursor to criminal behaviour. In Barbados, we continue to educate our society and raise awareness about this growing problem. I think that we need to do much more in the criminal justice system domain in order to help these children. When children are discovered as victims, we should always try to counsel them so that they can strive and develop psychologically, physically and socially.
In concluding, I am making some proposals that will assist in the delivery of justice.
Firstly, I propose that we register sex offenders, so that parents can create a safe, cohesive and harmonious environment for their children.
Secondly, we also need to encourage parents, friends, acquaintances, and family members to report this wrongdoing expeditiously, irrespective of the position that the perpetrator holds in our society.
Thirdly, we need to listen to children and be willing to spend enough time with them to create effective communication. This will encourage them to report any kind of sexual abuse, when an adult engages them in inappropriate behaviour.
To achieve this objective, we must build confidence in children and continuously support them in all the positive endeavours they aspire to be part of.
Fourthly, it is imperative that the legislators rewrite the Laws Of Barbados to reflect that the state would have a greater responsibility towards children, by making them wards of the state when they become victims of child sexual abuse. In this way, an assault on a child becomes an assault on the state.
By facilitating this process, parents will not be allowed to discontinue cases of child sexual abuse in exchange for money, or other material possession.
Fifthly, we need to have longer sentences and rehabilitative interventions for perpetrators to keep them away from children. This is necessary because these individuals are very difficult to reform.
(Rennette Dimmott is a forensic psychologist, behavioural specialist and published author.)