Columns

Denial of child abuse?

ID: INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE

David Mullings

Sunday, April 08, 2012    

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LAST week my column focused on the fact that a number of Jamaicans seemed more focus on the Trayvon Martin case in the USA than local cases of murder. I made it clear that I believed that too many people were in denial about the prejudice that exists and why so many did not care about the victims.

After the reports of child abuse in the Sunday Observer with descriptions of sexual abuse cases that made it hard to even complete some of the articles, I could not help but notice the outrage from numerous corners. People were expressing shock at the numbers.

I however was not shocked by the numbers and I must ask those who were if they have been in denial for years. This is not new information suddenly coming to light.

Between January and April 2010, from the Office of the Children's Registry, some 1,600 cases of child abuse were reported and widely reported in the media leading up to May, which is observed as Child Month. In 2009, there were 6,000 reports and CNN even ran an article on January 25 with the headline "Report: Child abuse on rise in Jamaica", which focused on the dramatic increase from 425 complaints in 2007 to 3,784 in 2008.

In November 2010 this very same paper carried an article titled "Child abuse high - 5,000 cases reported since Jan" and that the Child Development Agency (CDA) was being swamped. It is important to note that the CDA did not exist before 2007, so it is no surprise to see a massive jump from the first year of existence, when many did not take reporting possible abuse seriously, to 2008 onwards when Jamaicans became more aware of their duties to report possible cases.

I could not be shocked in 2012 to read the same headlines I have been seeing repeatedly since 2008. However, I am shocked that the numbers are still climbing.

While it may seem like little has been done to curb child abuse, I did some research and found out that a Child Abuse Mitigation Project (CAMP) was launched at the Bustamante Hospital for Children with funds from UNICEF in 2004. The information on CAMP indicated that in 2004 it "had become apparent that too many children were being hospitalised owing to abuse and neglect", as well as the fact that children were the victims of 70 per cent of the sexual abuse cases reported to police that year.

Clearly there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to begin to reverse the trend of reporting increased numbers of abused children each year.

The first step is for the people to stop denying abuse. Someone in the family must have some idea if there is possible abuse, but too often they deny that it could be happening to their child. Denial, in such instances, only leads to more suffering for the child. The country as a whole seems to jump with outrage when the media reports it and then the outrage dies down not too long after, only to jump again and demand action the following year when the next article comes out, as if a collective denial of the abuses taking place exists and only front page stories can remove it.

It is my sincere hope that collective action will be taken that results in a report next year this time that the numbers have decreased significantly. I also hope that once the stories fade from the front pages the country will not go back into denial.

David Mullings was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/davidmullings and Facebook at facebook.com/InteractiveDialogue

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