“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul”. Dave Pelzer
The abuse of children is most vile and despicable, especially when those in positions of trust and power are involved in committing such an act.
The sex scandal now rocking the Moravian Church (in Jamaica) seems to be getting from bad to worse. While sex abuse and molestation of minors are not new regarding the church, this episode is close to home and has served to turn the spotlight on an evil which has been taking place under the cloak of religiosity and plaguing the society for many years.
Sadly, too many of us choose to turn a blind eye to the evil around us, whether in our communities and/or the wider society. Ironically, it’s not until the same wickedness confronts us or those close to us that we realize that evil is evil regardless of the perpetrator. The time to interrogate and break the culture of silence is now as our children continue to experience hurt which inevitably will damage their sense of self and personhood.
The sexual exploitation of our children must be tackled with a sense of urgency and agency. It is disturbing and unacceptable that sexual grooming and harassment can and does take place in our churches and schools, the very same institutions which should provide comfort, safety and security for our children.
The wider church community has been rather lukewarm in their condemnation and rebuke of the scandal now impacting the church. The church is seemingly more vocal and forceful in their criticism of issues, such as casino gambling than the sexual abuse of children.
In many instances, perpetrators of sexual abuse have a knack of identifying those youngsters with low self-esteem issues in order to prey upon them. The government needs to work in eradicating poverty in the society since this social condition is usually the trigger for many who prey and exploit our children and those most vulnerable in the society. According to the United Nations (UN), poverty is more than the lack of income and resources to ensure a
sustainable livelihood. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.
The shame to report cases of child abuse rests with those who have knowledge of the abuse and refuse to go forward and report it. It is so very appalling that so many of our youngsters have to face such acts of immorality and violation alone. Notwithstanding the gravity of sexual abuse, bullying and the sexual exploitation of our youngsters, we cannot roll over and play dead.
In order to restore the social order of the society as well as heal and soothe wounded souls, we need to re-design the socialization process in the wider community in which we see all children as belonging to the people. This new way of thinking must be viewed as our collective responsibility to look out for the well-being of all children. The society needs to use the legislative framework to give more support to our abused children. The fine under the Child Care and Protection Act of $500,000 for failure to report suspected cases of child abuse is a joke and does not serve as a deterrent. This fine need to be revisited.
The grim reality is that for many survivors of sexual abuse, they will not get justice in a courthouse. Justice for some victims comes in various forms. Many victims have put aside the sad memory and moved on to some extent with their lives. Our justice system is rather slow in its delivery and, for many, the thought of testifying in open court is just too much.
Additionally, the strengthening of state agencies, mandated to protect the rights of our children, needs adequate funding in order for them to carry out their core functions. A society which fails to protect its most vulnerable obviously needs to recalibrate its moral compass and reassesses its value system.
(Wayne Campbell is a Jamaican educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)