Million-dollar help for school victims of psychological trauma


Million-dollar help for school victims of psychological trauma

Observer West writer

Thursday, September 05, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — The Ministry of Justice is fine-tuning plans to launch a special intervention programme at a school in St James later this month, according to Garey Gardener, regional director of the ministry's Victim Services Division.

Gardener, who declined to name the school because plans are yet to be finalised for the roll out of the project, said the initiative, which is expected to cost $1 million, is aimed at addressing behavioural changes in students due to psychological trauma.

“Coming in early September, we will be doing a special intervention programme in one of our schools here in Montego Bay. This particular intervention is costing the ministry over $1 million...and it seeks to address select students who are experiencing behavioural challenges,” he explained.

Gardener, who was addressing the media launch of the Miss Montego Bay Pageant (MMBP) 2019 and the Miss Montego Bay Foundation (MMBF) at Blue Beat in St James recently, pointed out that the programme will comprise six sessions, and is projected to last for six weeks.

“What we do is that we identify students who have suffered psychological trauma and therefore exhibit various kinds of behaviours that are not in keeping with the school environment. We will also seek to enable teachers and parents to deal effectively with these children who sometimes do have special social needs,” Gardener explained.

Meanwhile, founder and executive director of MMBP and MMBF, Theresa Walker, said the aim of the pageant, which is being held under the theme: 'Empowering our Women', is to positively develop young women in the areas of leadership, public speaking, deportment, etiquette, empowerment, and inspiration.

The Miss Montego Bay Foundation's mission is mandated to assist with the healing and restoration of the minds and lives of the young men and women across the island that have been affected by sexual abuse.

“During the pageant [last year], one of the contestants was raped. As the news was shared with the other contestants, seven also declared that they too had also been raped, at some point in their lives. One contestant shared how she had been molested from the age of four and raped all the way to the age of 18. She had also been trafficked, at some point. In a room of 15 young women, eight had been raped. That's more than 50 per cent. That was an alarming and staggering number,” stated Walker.

“I too was raped 30 years ago and at that moment I discovered that rape had not stopped with me, it just continued and now grown into the plague we are battling today. I never reported my assault, neither did I tell my parents or anyone for that matter. I suffered for years in silence,” she told the gathering.

She noted that “though now we have organisations like CISOCA (Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) who helps to find and arrest these monsters. CPFSA (Child Protection and Family Services Agency) and the Ministry of Justice's Victims Services Division, who are all helping victims in various ways, from advocacy to counselling and various programmes to help them to overcome”, much more needs to be done.

“The Miss Montego Bay Foundation's first priority is the mental state of the victims, understanding that rape robs its victims of their confidence, power, and often security. A victim will always need care, compassion, convenience, and support to be able to restore what the attacker took, but this is an ongoing 24- hour a day, seven-day a week responsibility,” Walker stressed.

One of last year's contestants, who said she was assaulted during the pageant, expressed gratitude to the organisation for the support she received.

“Amidst the two months leading up to coronation, I was attacked, and though this may sound dreary and depressing, I'd like to note that I had such a wonderful support system, a whole band of sisters from the Miss Montego Bay pageant, who prayed for me and cried with me. They really felt the hurt that I did and the shock I felt too…..but I say this to say that this pageant really is like no other,” she expressed.

Trained rape investigator Deputy Superintendent of Police Angela McIntosh-Gayle in embracing the work of the pageant, pointed to the importance of having a support group outside of the police and the Victims' Services Division, doing their part. She also pointed to what she described as the demoralising process of getting justice through the courts, which has led to a number of victims shying away from making a report.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, who was the guest speaker at the media launch, commended the organisers and promised to provide support.

During her speech, the attorney general who is a former sexual offences prosecutor and judge, lamented that Jamaica has a serious problem with sexual abuse as she made reference to statistics showing that four out of every five young girls lost their virginity to rape or molestation. She did not give the source of the data.

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