At a media workshop at the Hyatt Regency on Wednesday, Children’s Authority director Sharifa Ali-Abdullah, disclosed that 5,000 complaints of child abuse were made in one year, including 1,000 cases of child sexual abuse.
Yesterday, Sinanan called for urgent Government action on the Children’s Authority’s revelations and shared his own startling insights based on his everyday experiences in a decade-long career as a teacher.
“I can’t say that I’m totally surprised with the numbers. While the head of the Children’s Authority may have expressed alarm at the high incidence, from where we sit as teachers we have been getting these cases that we have had cause to intervene in, in many cases,” Sinanan said.
He said that under the Sexual Offences Act and Children’s Authority Act, teachers are mandated to report to the police any cases of known or suspected childabuse, although what happens afterwards is out of any teacher’s remit. “We do get quite a few reports and we do have to intervene,” he related.
“I’ll tell you this - children who are being sexually abused usually take on a different persona.
Through our experience over the years in dealing with children, it is not very difficult to detect. You see mood-swings, you see anxiety attacks, violent outbursts and they can resolve issues and their interpersonal skills are poor.” Yet the problem does not end with diagnosis of abuse, he said.
STATE FAILING CHILDREN “Where we have a problem is when you know for a fact that a child is being abused, the State does not have enough facilities where you can place children safely knowing that they’d be cared for and that there are qualified, competent staff there to take care of them and meet their emotional needs.” Sinanan said this dilemma is also faced by the police, to decide if to move a child from an abusive home. “You have to weigh the options.
This is an abusive environment but it’s also the home of the child, these are the parents, and if you are going to remove you have to be absolutely certain that when you remove the child to protect the child from the abuse that is being meted out at home, that you don’t put the child in a place where his/her needs are not met and he/she is subjected to more abuse, as in many of the care homes that is a problem.” Sinanan accused the State of having long abdicated its duty to vulnerable children to provide children’s homes, saying many are run by NGOs and religious groups. “That’s a lament of the Children’s Authority - where do you put them?” He said a lack of accommodation is all part of the dilemma faced by teachers trying to intervene to help abused children.
Also noting a risk of retribution by an abuser against a child complainant, Sinanan mulled the dilemma of intervention, saying, “You might actually be putting the child at greater risk.
The abusers may want to ‘take it out’ on the child. So it’s a very, very delicate ‘call’ on our part as teachers in treating with these matters, especially in schools where we have children coming from the lower socio-economic backgrounds. It is quite rampant.
It’s a reality we have learnt to live with. We try. We do whatever we can under the ambit of the law.” DAUGHTERS’ ABUSE FOR $$ Sinanan confirmed Newsday’s suspicion that some poor families live off the earnings of their underage daughters. “I actually know of not one but many cases - personally as a dean, as a form teacher and as a school administrator - where the mother will actively encourage men to visit their home to be with the 14 or 15 year old daughter.
That’s a source of income. That’s the unfortunate psychology of poverty.” Sinanan confirmed Newsday’s query that even in the care homes, there is a lot of abusing taking place. “It is a sad indictment of our society.” He said when a teacher is called to intervene in a situation, these are some of the realities that must be weighed up.
“How do you establish that abuse is occurring? How do you remove the child? How do you protect the child?” Mulling cases where the child returns to an abusive environment, he said a teacher will wonder what will happen to the child and will the abuser extract revenge against him/her if learning of the child’s report to the teacher? “So we are not really surprised at the statistics.
I would have dealt with this over many, many years.” Sinanan also revealed that a concerned teacher may be at risk himself/herself trying to help an abused child, recalling a tragic tale of Tobago from the 1990s.
“The child came and reported the abuse and the perpetrator came and killed the teacher, Emelyn James.
Sinanan said schools need to have more guidance counselors and social workers, the latter who can go into homes to assess children and engage with parents. He hopes counselors are placed in each primary school to help unearth a child’s social problem at an earlier stage when hopefully it is easier to treat.