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  • Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, is appealing to educators to continue to familiarise themselves with the signs of abuse in children, particularly sexual abuse, so that suspected cases can be reported to the relevant authorities.
  • She was speaking at a Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) workshop for the reduction and prevention of child sexual abuse, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on September 25.
  • Citing 2013 statistics from the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) which points to a 26 per cent increase in the number of children being abused in Jamaica, Ms. Hanna stressed that that the onus is not only on teachers but it is the duty of all well-thinking citizens to report abuse.

Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, is appealing to educators to continue to familiarise themselves with the signs of abuse in children, particularly sexual abuse, so that suspected cases can be reported to the relevant authorities.

“I recognise the awesome responsibility that you have in not only teaching those vital subjects that are part of the curriculum, but also becoming…the doctor, the counselor, the nutritionist, the bank account supplier and that protector for children who are being preyed upon by sexual predators,” she said.

She was speaking at a Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) workshop for the reduction and prevention of child sexual abuse, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on September 25.

Miss. Hanna noted that the role of educators in reporting these cases was crucial given the fact that they are the persons students spend the majority of their time with. She implored them to look for the signs, such as children becoming withdrawn, not wanting to participate in class, and seeming anxious.

The Minister welcomed the workshop, which she said provided the participants of mostly educators, with an opportunity to learn about these and other telltale signs of abuse “and to become that trusted person, that you can hold their hand, not only to make the report, but to let them know that they have done nothing wrong, that it really is not their fault”.

Citing 2013 statistics from the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) which points to a 26 per cent increase in the number of children being abused in Jamaica, Ms. Hanna stressed that that the onus is not only on teachers but it is the duty of all well-thinking citizens to report abuse.

“You actually have a duty to make the report or you will be fined by the law if it is found out you knew this was happening and you did not make the report,” Miss Hanna warned.

She added that while the Government has strengthened its Sexual Offences Act, and included more measures where perpetrators can be charged, “without the evidence, you will not have anyone going to jail.”

Turning to other statistics, the Minister noted that of the 11,018 reports, over 8,000 are new reports for children who are being abused for the first time. “If you were to narrow down those statistics, you are looking at about 8,679 children and 57 per cent of those children are girls,” she said.

The Minister informed that neglect is the number one form of abuse in the country, accounting for 48 per cent of the reports in 2013. In addition, she noted that reports of rape grew by 19 per cent in 2013.

The statistics reveal that there was a 26 per cent increase in the reports of child sexual abuse over the corresponding period in 2012, and accounted for 31 per cent of all reports in 2013. This increase, the Minister said, was mainly due to the increase in the children who were being carnally abused, which relates to children under 16 years old.

She said the data also indicate that in about seven out of 10 cases, the abuse takes place in the child’s home and the perpetrator is known to the victim. “Often, it is the step-father, the step-mother an uncle, an aunt,” she lamented.

The Minister also pointed to the “hidden phenomenon” of incest, which occurs across all strata of society, yet is under-reported in Jamaica because many of the families do not want to speak about it. She however stressed that “it is something that we are going to have to have an honest conversation about”.

Miss Hanna said all forms of abuse against children must stop, and again stressed the need for vigilance in knowing and identifying the signs of abuse, how to treat it, and, most importantly, how to prevent it from happening.

This was the third in a series of WLI workshops, which train persons in the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse. The WLI is a committee of United Way Jamaica.