Shadow pandemic – Child sexual abuse on the rise

All Woman

THE novel coronavirus pandemic has created a “shadow pandemic” that is an even greater threat to Jamaica's well-being, the Women's Leadership Initiative (WLI) has said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the WLI 2021 child sexual abuse prevention training programme for educators of Central Branch Primary, Lezanne Azan, Darkness to Light certified facilitator and a member of the WLI Advocacy Committee, noted that “since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified”.

“The majority of us know someone — a loved one, family member, friend, even ourselves — who have experienced some level of sexual abuse, and research has shown that often child sexual abuse progresses to human trafficking and prostitution.”

Chair of the WLI's advocacy committee, Nadine Heywood, said since the pandemic, sexual offences have increased and this 'shadow pandemic' is now recognised as a public health emergency.

She noted that there is well-documented research on the long-term negative effects and in some instances the lifelong impact of child sexual abuse... research also points to the correlation between child sexual abuse and violence.

“Child welfare organisations and other stakeholders are actively trying to determine how to address this destructive element in our society. At Women's Leadership Initiative, we, too, are assessing the environment, keeping close to our partners, maintaining the dialogue and pivoting to deliver on our mission of contributing to the well-being of all Jamaica despite the challenges presented by COVID, we have to continue working together to effect positive change in the lives of our children. The feedback indicates that it can be done. It must be done!” Heywood declared.

Herma McRae, deputy chair of the Advocacy Committee, thanked the principal and teachers of Central Branch Primary School for their “commitment to protecting our children”.

“Child sexual abuse affects all socio-economic sectors of the society. The role of the teacher is very important in averting the trauma that can result from child sexual abuse. This is not an academic exercise, it is very real and happening all around us,” she told the educators.

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