News

Police and community tackling incest, child abuse

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 25, 2011    

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In an attempt to reduce the number of child abuse cases in Trench Town, Kingston, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and residents have joined forces in educating parents to recognise and deal with incest and child abuse.

The Kingston Western police division has not had an unusually large number of incest cases, in fact Corporal Sophia Duffus told community members recently that she is aware of just two such cases occurring in the seven years she has been stationed in the community.

However the cases are still an indication of why the police need this public education campaign.

In the more recent case, a 15-year-old girl was sent from her home in St Ann to Trench Town after being impregnated by her father.

"The man was the child's grandfather, father and babyfather in one," she said. "He is one of those who believes he should keep it in the family."

She said the man is still being sought by the police after he fled his community following the incident.

Corporal Duffus further explained that incest attracts a prison sentence of five years to life.

She said while the focus is mainly on men, women can be guilty of incest, with grandmothers being the only female member of a family that is exempt from being charged.

Deputy Superintendent Oberlene Smith, team leader of the community's workshop initiative, explained that this law existed from the colonial days in England when grandmothers were the ones responsible for teaching their grandsons how to have sex. Therefore, any sexual encounter between them would be considered a lesson.

"This has not been corrected in our books and still stands today. It needs to be addressed," DSP Smith said.

As a result of the increasing numbers of child abuse cases, including incest, which police say has become a great concern to them overall, the JCF's Inter Agency Support Team has been hosting a series of parenting workshops in the Kingston Western division around issues recommended by residents themselves. Incest and child abuse were high on the list.

"We try to educate parents on how to identify incest and the laws behind it," DSP Smith said. "But child abuse is rampant. Persons don't understand that the pulling of a child [and] how they talk to them is child abuse," she said.

According to DSP Smith, the main presenter at the third of four scheduled parenting workshop in Rose Town recently said frustration and stress were the main causes.

"Sometimes you find that the mother is not being supportive or the father not being supportive and so that parent will take it out on the child," she said. "Strangers abuse children out of sheer evil. A good example is the boys at the stop lights and how they are treated. The way persons respond to them sometimes is abusive."

At the workshop, one mother admitted to burning her child with cigarette butts. Others admitted to forms of abuse but said they were not aware that they were in fact abusing their children.

DSP Smith explained that while the workshop did not reach as many persons as they would have liked, the concept is that each participant would leave with enough knowledge to teach others who were not in attendance.

"It is still a drop in the bucket, and each one teach one," she said. "Tivoli is about 10,000 persons and we only had about a hundred coming out. So what we want is each one to be their brother's keeper because we won't get everyone coming out."

Georgia Dwarka, president of the Trench Town Benevolent Society/CDC, also agreed that child abuse was rampant and therefore one of the main aims of the workshops was to rebuild the family.

"The main abuse is parents badly physically abusing children," she said. "We have a lot of single parents so we are also trying to get the males to take charge of their responsibly. We are trying to get back the families."

The initiative, which began after the violent events in Tivoli Gardens last May, began with four police officers walking from door to door in the community. This then incited the need for a police code of conduct workshop where they were trained in mediation, conflict resolution and customer service. Constant requests by community members for parenting workshops lead to the organisation of four in Arnett Gardens, Wilton Gardens, Rose Town and Lyndhurst/Greenwich.

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