KINGSTON — A child sexual abuse awareness and prevention project, launched recently by the United Church Young Adult Action Movement, is receiving support from state agencies responsible for the protection of children.
The 11-month project seeks to reduce incidences of child sexual abuse in Jamaica, by increasing public awareness of the problem and encouraging persons to report cases. It will target primary caregivers, by increasing their capacity to respond to children in a non-abusive manner, and empower the 6-14 year olds, by sensitizing them to their rights and encouraging them to act against abusers.
Commanding Officer at the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Superintendent Gladys Brown-Campbell, says reporting observations of wrongs committed against children will protect the child and would be victims against abuse.
"When an outsider reports what he or she observes happening to a child, what that does is not only safeguards the child, but ensure that the perpetuator is stopped in his track," the Superintendent told JIS News.
She said CISOCA supports the plan by the church group, and urged that reporting child abuse become commonplace, as it is about saving the nation from the future effects of the trauma and ensuring children receive care and protection.
"Once a responsible or caring person sees what he (offender) is doing and makes a report, it stops the perpetrator from carrying on this behaviour with other children, and it also protects the child too, because the child will immediately get treatment where it is required, gets counselling and we will be able to take the matter to court,’ she stated.
Registrar of the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR), Greg Smith, said that the project “is timely”.
"The fight against child abuse cannot be the job of one agency; it has to be a collaborative effort by all. Let us encourage everyone to stop, look, and talk and save a child from sexual abuse," he argued.
"I applaud the United Church, and I invite other organizations to come partner with us; we will work together, because the scourge of sexual and physical violence against children must go," remarked head of the Child Development Agency’s (CDA) Investigations Unit, Beverly McCue.
Another aspect of the awareness project is to change the negative attitude towards reporting suspected sexual abuse, through community education, improving the immediate environment of children and increasing the capacity of parent teacher associations. It will be promoted in schools, public transportation and other outlets, with brochures and other means of disseminating information to the public.
Giving OCA support for the initiative, Public Education and Special Projects Manager, Gloria Thompson, pointed to research indicating that community intervention has proven to be one of the most effective strategies in tackling the issue.
"For the men, when the children come to you, they need love, let them take positive memories with them into the future, not scars," Mrs. Thompson said.
The coordinators hope that the investment in human resources and logistics, geared towards strengthening the capacity of young people to act on behalf of others, will have a multiplier effect.
President of the group, Mark Jonas, urged that volunteering time, expertise and passion be utilized in ensuring that the project has a positive and lasting impact in protecting children. They encourage use of the COR hotline number, 1888-protect (7768328), to report sexual abuses being meted out to children.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter