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Children's agency tours St Ann while buggery accused remanded

BY JASON CROSS
Staff reporter
crossj@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 09, 2021

AS the five men charged with buggery in relation to a 13-year-old girl in St Ann last week made their first appearance in court on Friday, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) led a motorcade throughout several communities in the parish.

The tour included Golden Grove, where the incident occurred, as the CPFSA urged residents to remain vigilant and not hesitate to report cases of child abuse using the 888-PROTECT reporting line.

The five accused, two 16-year-old boys and three men, aged 18, 20 and 23, were remanded when they appeared in the St Ann Parish Court to answer to charges of buggery, abduction, and grievous sexual assault arising from the alleged incident with the minor on Monday, April 26. They will return to court on Friday, May 14.

According to the police, the girl was on her way to stay with her grandmother when she reportedly took a short cut to a nearby shop at which point she was accosted by the five accused and taken into an unfinished house where she was stripped of her clothes and buggered.

The CPFSA toured the communities on Friday, with loudspeakers blaring the messages in song and making numerous stops in Ocho Rios, Breadnut Hill, Colgate, Johnston through to Golden Grove, as part of its series of drive-through initiatives throughout May, Child Month.

The organisation was accompanied by some of its partners such as the Jamaica Constabulary Force, National Council on Drug Abuse and the Department of Correctional Services.

At one of the stops at a bar in Orange Park, chief executive officer of the CPFSA, Rosalee Gage Gray, chatted with owner of the establishment, Kerryann Brown, who was excited about the drive-through.

Brown told the Jamaica Observer that shortly before the CPFSA arrived she was discussing the buggery incident with a friend. She said indicated being “grossed out” by the reports and shared that it reiterates why she should never leave her eight-year-old daughter unattended.

“It is so disturbing to know that the men who are supposed to be protecting the children are abusing them. It is not nice. It worries me a lot knowing that I have a child, and to put her on a taxi or to leave her at a friend's house and she is not safe is very disturbing.

“I wouldn't say abuse cases occur a lot around here, but it does happen, and it's just not good. It really, really hurts me, honestly. I really don't feel safe with my child. That's why most times I don't send her anywhere, I just let her stay with me. I trust nobody. I have been in situations. I trust nobody around my child, not even my dad. It is hurtful though, honestly, to know you cannot walk on the road and feel safe.”

Gage Gray chimed in on the conversation, adding that trust is very important, and that it is parents' duty to know the character of who they leave their children with. She warned that parents should desist from having older siblings bathe young children, citing that it creates “access”.

“If they need to use the bathroom, people normally send an older child, but we are saying, teach them to do it. Adults have a responsibility not to abuse children. If parents are going to delegate their authority to somebody else, they must understand the responsibility they have. For early childhood, we say make sure the school you are sending the child to is registered — and we say that because the early childhood commission has a responsibility to ensure that anybody who is there is certified to be there and know[s] how to protect children.

“We are going to be doing this in other communities. The children are not at school. I spoke to one and she said she has to adapt to the online, but she really doesn't like it. When we can come out, see from them, and hear from them, it is really important. Yes, they see the teacher online, but it is so different when they can do the one-on-one in that sense. We say report child abuse, [but] we need to do some more public education as to what is abuse. Sex tends to be taboo because of how we are socialised,” she said.

In agreement with some of Gage Gray's recommendations, Brown added that she once left her daughter with someone and the child complained that she wasn't comfortable and requested that she not send her back.

“I asked her what is going on but she said nothing. I didn't send her back. My mom is the only one I can leave her with, but that's it. I have reasons not to trust anybody,” she said.

Leteacher Ennis, corporal of police from the St Ann Division assigned to the Community Safety and Security Branch of the policeforce, embraced the drvie-through saying it was “a very good initiative, especially at this time, Child Month, and in light of what is happening, not just in our space, but all over”.

She encouraged parents “to know where their children are at all times” and that it is important to have a line of communication with them so that if they are having any issues they can communicate.