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EDITORIAL: Child abuse must end

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Child abuse must end

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IT WAS A giant step on the road to breaking the terrible silence on a dirty secret.

And the timing couldn’t have been more propitious.

As Barbados uses its golden jubilee celebrations to herald its human development, Crime Stoppers Barbados has raised the lid on a nightmare: violence and abuse, including sexual terror, inflicted on our children.

The crime-fighting charity should be commended for reminding Bajans of the seriousness of this situation, which needs urgent attention from everyone, especially the Government, families, schools and the church.

As Devrol Dupigny, Crime Stoppers executive director explained it, the organisation was becoming inundated with complaints about physical, sexual and verbal abuse of youngsters.

“It is a growing concern for Crime Stoppers,” said Dupigny.

But the organisation isn’t alone.

The United States State Department in Washington drew international attention to child abuse when it stated in its 2015 annual human rights report that “violence and abuse against children remained serious problems” in Barbados.

It quoted the Ministry of Family as acknowledging that child prostitution had occurred in the country.

Far too often the scourge involves biological fathers, stepdads and other close male relatives who ignore the fact that the age for consensual sex is 16 years. Sadly, mothers are often aware of what’s going on but are reluctant to act for financial reasons because the perpetrators are boyfriends who pay household bills.

Ken Knight, chairman of the Child Care Board, the agency responsible for the welfare of youngsers, has already sounded his voice on this issue, saying it is a real concern.

Figures paint a sordid picture.

In 2013, the board investigated 648 cases but the number skyrocketed to 823 referrals the next year, complained the State Department.

One way of dealing with it is to bring the mess out into the open. Another is to let families, schools and churches know how to spot abuse and report it to the authorities.

The board and UNICEF are already doing some of that. Thirdly, the Government must provide the board with the financial and human resources to curb the epidemic.

The Child Care Board also acknowledged that there is still too much silence about child abuse.

We agree, and we believe this must end.