KINGSTON — More Jamaicans are reporting cases of abuse or mistreatment of children, in keeping with the provisions of the Child Care and Protection Act.
Former Children's Advocate, Mary Clarke, said that despite earlier reticence, Jamaicans are carrying out their responsibility under the law, to report to the authorities when they see or have reason to believe that children are being ill-treated.
Mrs. Clarke was delivering the keynote address at the launch of a child sexual abuse awareness and prevention project by the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Island (UCJCI), held on November 3 at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
The former Children’s Advocate noted that when the legislation was implemented in 2004, it received lukewarm response, but through public awareness initiatives from state agencies, more people are now seeing the importance of protecting the child.
"The data indicates that more and more persons are making reports to the (Office of the) Children's Registry. More persons are realising the importance of compliance with the law,” she stated.
Statistics from the OCR show that since 2007, just over 12,000 reports of child abuse were recorded, with 6,000 reports received in 2009. The office has already received 1,600 reports since the start of the year.
Section 6 of the law makes it mandatory for “any person, who has information, which causes that person to suspect that a child has been, is being, or is likely to be abandoned, neglected, or physically of sexually ill-treated, or is otherwise in need of care, to make a report to the Children’s Registry in accordance with the provision."
Persons can report cases of abuse to the OCR hotline number, 1888-protect (7768328).
Stating that it is imperative that adults remain vigilant in standing up for children, Mrs. Clarke said the “law can only be effective and adequately enforced, if we all play our part."
The former Children’s Advocate also appealed to parents to communicate more with their offspring, while urging children, who have been abused, to seek help.
The 11-month project, being implemented by the UCJCI, seeks to reduce the incidence of child sexual abuse in Jamaica, by increasing public awareness of the problem and encouraging persons to report cases.
The initiative will target primary caregivers, by increasing their capacity to respond to children in a non-abusive manner, and empower the 6-14 year group, by sensitising them about their rights, and strengthening their self-esteem to act against abusers.
General Secretary of UCJCI, Rev. Norbert Stephens, said the church has a responsibility to protect children against abuse, especially sexual harm.
“Sexual abuse carries a unique devastation factor, precisely because sexual abuse distorts realities of what it means to be human, personhood is plundered, sexual expression is perverted, and interpersonal trust is shattered,” he stated.
By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter