Child protection agency authorities here are scratching their heads over what they see as a disturbing trend of minors having sex with minors at school.
Coordinator of the Child Abuse Programme at the state-owned Child Care Board (CCB) Roxanne Sanderson-Weekes told Barbados TODAY this worrying development was particularly prevalent at certain schools outside of the St Michael catchment area. She did not name these schools.
Sanderson-Weekes said what was of even more concern is that the majority of children engaged in this activity at school and targeted by adults outside of these learning institutions, are under age ten.
“There was an increase in sexual abuse of young children under the age of 10 [2017-2018], both by adults and other minors. Minor on minor sex is a growing concern, especially at young ages. This is especially prevalent in the school environment,” the Child Care Board official said while providing overall child abuse statistics for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 periods.
She revealed that the officers of the protection agency are also reporting a high rate of fondling of younger children, not only by adults, but also by older children.
Sanderson-Weekes identified primary schools as the place where much of this sexual deviancy was happening.
“What we are finding though is a lot of cases where there is minor on minor inter-sexual acts; and you are seeing a lot of them coming out of the primary schools. It is sexual abuse in a sense because they are either seeing it or hearing it or are exposed to it in some way. And you coming to school and you are now performing this act on somebody else…another child. So we see a lot of that, where you have to do a lot of counseling…and this is where you need to continue to reinforce this kind of discussion on proper sexual behavior within the school system,” she suggested.
Sanderson-Weekes went further to illustrate the ages at which minors are being sexually abused. The senior officer revealed that last year, one child between ages five and 11 was raped while the same thing happened to 20 children ranging in ages 12 to 16.
The Child Care Board official noted that seven children in the 5-11 age group reported being fondled and another was reportedly abused by the insertion of someone’s finger. Additionally, six children were subjected to inappropriate sexual exposure and two were the targets of sexual advances. She also lamented that one minor between ages five and 11 had oral sex performed on her while two – ages 12 – 16 – were on the receiving end of a similar act.
“The majority of perpetrators of sexual abuse cases continues to be persons known to the victims. These are usually family members, peers from school, neighbours or the girls’ boyfriend. In the case of a family member being the alleged perpetrator, this may necessitate the child being removed from that environment. There were also cases of children contracting various sexually transmitted diseases as a result of being sexually abused,” she added.
But while the authorities work to get a grip on the rising incidence of minor on minor sex acts in schools, they are reporting a gradual decline in the overall number of child abuse cases in the island.
“For 2017-2018, the statistics show that we had 716 child abuse cases which affected 947 children. Of that, we had a total of 526 new cases which impacted 669 new children,” the child abuse programme coordinator told Barbados TODAY.
She said that 2017-2018 figures showed a decrease over those for the 2016-2017 period. In the previous year, there were 206 cases more cases involving 265 more minors.
The Child Care Board official disclosed that girls constituted the more frequently abused gender across most categories. For example, she cited the latest data for 2018 which showed that 101 girls were physically abused compared to 96 boys; 114 girls were victims of sexual abuse as against 28 boys; and 52 females experienced emotional abuse, two more than the males. She stated that the males, however, were the ones more
neglected by their parents (279/222) or abandoned (4/1).
In expressing concern over the “very” young ages at which children are being abused these days, Sanderson-Weekes reported that up to age four, there were 43 cases of physical abuse of minors recorded and 28 sexual abuse; 179 cases of neglect; 26 of emotional trauma and two cases of abandonment.
For those five years and under 12, some 84 were the victims of physical abuse; 40 sexual abuse; 176 were neglected; 34 emotionally abused and four abandoned while in the 12-16 age group there were 42 children who were physically abused; 71 sexually abused; 70 were neglected; 43 were subjected to emotional abuse and one was abandoned.
The spokesperson also said that despite a slight decrease in the reported cases of physical abuse, this still remains of major concern. She pinpointed the number of teenagers who are injured due to conflict between them and a parent contending that poor parenting, particularly by younger parents, was also contributing to physical abuse.
However, Sanderson-Weekes told Barbados TODAY that the Board had not gone asleep, when it came to reports of child abuse. She said the CCB continued to work with Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) and its Sex Crime Unit to bring perpetrators before the law courts.
According to her, in 2017, some 15 accused child sexual abusers were arrested and charged, while the number was eight last year. Two were placed before the courts for physical abuse in 2016, but none for last year.
The figures supplied by the Child Care Board also showed that 20 of the 31 cases of sexual abuse reported to police were under investigation in 2018 along with one of the 17 cases of physical abuse turned over to the lawmen.