“I was reading one of the horrific stories. Sometimes I just ask, ‘Give me five horrific stories, because I can’t ‘deal’ with more than five at one time. There was one with an eighty-something year old grandfather who sexually- abused three step-grandchildren, aged nine, ten and eleven, in some very severe ways.” She said he violated the Children’s Act’s prohibition of sexual penetration of minors.
“Using instruments, using his person and having instruments placed in various orifices. And that person is still at large,” she related. “So we have the three children receiving care but the alleged perpetrator is still out there...and there is evidence. We have many, many cases such as these. Therefore we need to expedite our systems. We need to be able to have more convictions.” Likewise, child-rights advocate, attorney Hazel Thompson-Ahye, recalled a “most horrendous” case of gross child-abuse, with dire consequences for each, but in which the police had allegedly failed to properly act. She said a man had sexually assaulted his daughters, aged four and 12 with dire consequences for each victim.
“The four-year-old was found with VD (venereal disease or sexually- transmitted disease). The 12-year-old was impregnated...
twice! And the judge ordered the file to the Commissioner of Police.
About five years after, I saw a story in the newspaper that made me go to Legal Aid and ask to see that file, only to see it was the same people because the area was the same. It was the same man! Nothing had been done about him! And here was a lawyer saying, ‘well don’t send him to prison, because he is fifty-something years old and might die in prison.
“This man was now abusing the sons. So the daughters were taken away, and the sons were being sexually abused. The police had not done anything. If they had done something about it before then I’m sure he’d now be somewhere safe where he couldn’t hurt people.
CHILDREN SUFFER Ali-Abdullah lamented the plight of children in protective custody. “When we remove these children - and we have removed 120 children - we are merely re-traumatising these children.
These children are the ones who are suffering. They are away from their families. We’ve had to remove children who are doing SEA,” she related.
“We are removing children while the alleged perpetrators are still living free, and these children are almost in a prison-like situation, because their right to freedom is curtailed and the length of criminal investigations and taking the process through the system is really protracted.” He urged the media to probe the minds of sex offenders, and to ask why such acts continue widespread in this society.
“I thought this was particularly disturbing - amongst the 1,000 cases of sexual abuse that we have recorded is 142 children who are having sexual relationships with adult men. Illegal, according to our Act, but it is condoned and accepted. Some of them have children. What is pretty disconcerting is that of these children, about 50 of them are pregnant at this time.” Saying the Authority received 5,000 complaints during its first year of existence, she said the extent of abuse of children in TT is far worse than initially expected.
She said the Authority’s remit is on the child’s welfare, not on pursuit of an offender which is the job of the police. Ali-Abdullah advised reporters that stories worth reporting were the high correlation between abuse and social issues such as crime and poverty, why is sex abuse so rampant, what’s the state of the perpetrator and is there a vicious cycle of abuse? SEX ABUSE, NEGLECT At the workshop, reporters received the Children Authority Annual Report 2015 which showed most complaints about abused children were of sexual abuse (22 percent), neglect (19 percent), lacking care and guardianship (15 percent) and being beyond control (eight percent).
Disaggregated for gender, the report stated, “One third of all reports concerning female clients were of sexual abuse, compared to 6.6 percent of all reports concerning male clients.” By age, children most at risk of sexual abuse were aged 10 to 15 years, although youngsters both younger and older were also abused.
“The 10 to 13 year old and 14 to 15 year old groups appear to be the most vulnerable to sexual abuse, with 24.4 percent and 29.6 percent of all children sexually abused belonging to those age ranges respectively.” The report showed that some 18 percent of child sex abuse victims are age 16 to 17 years, 11 percent are aged seven to nine years, 9.6 percent are age four to six, and 6.9 percent are age zero to three years old. Authority chairman, attorney Stephanie Daly confirmed the police must treat with such perpetrators, as it is not within the Authority’s remit.
Media consultant, Sunity Maharaj, warned parents to not post inappropriate photos of their youngsters online, that she said may be lapped up by perverts.
She alleged an “increasingly sexualised relationship” between people and their cameras, saying even youngsters strike provocative poses, likely inspired by raunchy pop music videos.
She warned against the online posting of any sexualised pictures of their youngsters. The workshop panellists urged media houses to report responsibly on matters affecting children, saying that even a casual photograph taken in a public place could expose a child to danger by revealing their whereabouts.
Daly called for media houses to adopt protocols and a common position on the reporting of child issues.