The Grenada government has established a committee, headed by former School principal, Ursula Antoine to help arrest the growing problem of Child Sexual Abuse in the country.
According to Minister of Social Development and Housing, Delma Thomas the committee is also made up of representatives of the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF), Grenada Bar Association (GBA), Child Protection Authority, Conference of Churches of Grenada, Youth Organisations, and the Ministry of Social Development, among others.
Addressing members of the media at the weekly held Post Cabinet Briefing held at the Ministerial Complex, Minister Thomas said that child abuse has become very prevalent in the Grenadian society affecting not only the victims but the entire family and the community at large.
The female government minister noted that the issue is proving to be costly for the State since it has to bear the cost of developing policies, programmes, laws, hiring human resources and building institutions to assist victims, as well as help educate the society on the negative results of such behaviour.
According to Minister Thomas, despite the penalties awarded by the court to persons convicted of Child Abuse, the problem is worsening based on recent statistics “and I think that’s why Cabinet gave that mandate to have a national committee to deal against sexual abuse…”.
President of the Grenada Bar Association, Lady Anande Trotman-Joseph who also addressed the press briefing said the problem is growing and now becoming part of the wider society.
“We have to consider that already for half of the year we have 189 cases of Child Sexual Abuse. The regional statistics suggest to us that one in three, predominantly females, are victims of sexual abuse”, she said.
“…What is happening – every time our criminal court sits … we have at least 50% of every matter that comes before the judges in the criminal assizes having to do with sexual violence in our society”, she added.
Stating that the situation has now become “a pandemic”, Lady Anande said that the situation is not an issue only for government but for everyone to work together and address the problem.
“We know that where child sexual and sexuality issues have become part of our culture, we have become accepting of it and perhaps the reason that we have become so accepting of it is that a lot of us will be criminalised if we accept our truths as society.
“We would have husbands, brothers, even ourselves as women, we would then become perpetrators if not of the crimes, we will become perpetrators in terms of enabling these kinds of crimes.
The female attorney-at-law pointed out that the situation is so alarming that what “we are looking at (is) an entire psychology of adults preying on our most vulnerable in our society – children”.
Lady Anande went on: “It gets worst when these children come from environments where the socio-economic conditions lend to the further vulnerability of Child Sexual Abuse and it gets worst where there are children in these kinds of conditions who are perhaps retarded, disabled”
“…, The statistics are also telling us that these children are falling prey to these pedophiles and this is something that (we) really have to look at seriously…”, she said.
The Bar Association President feared that Grenada as a tourist destination could be severely affected by growing sexual abuse of children.
“We talking about sustainability development – if we don’t fix this problem at this point in our history then we may have paradise but what happens to those of us who inhabit paradise”, she said.
The female attorney called for what she termed “a life cycle approach” in grappling with the problem as these young girls are so negatively impacted that they live with fear, shame, lose confidence, suffer depression, lose their ability to socialise, as well as to negotiate relationships and safe sex, and to make wise choices in partners.
“…We are in crisis where this issue is concerned…”, she said.
Inspector Errolyn Garraway of the Community Relations Department who is representing RGPF on the body urged parents and guardians to report cases of Child Sexual Abuse to the police since a lot of incidents go unreported.
“There is this problem where reports are not being made to the police for whatever reason. There is a law that states that there (is) supposed to be mandatory reporting. Bearing this in mind, we ask you to come forward and make all reports to the police, so the matter can be investigated and be dealt with so that we can do something for our children – the children are our future, any nation’s future.
“…Without us taking care of them, we wouldn’t be able to have any future where the children are concerned because there are parents that neglect and let the children fall victim to these situations.
Insp. Garraway alluded to the Crime Triangle that must take place in order for a child to become a victim of sexual abuse.
“We must have an intention, we must have an opportunity, and we must have a desire. We cannot take away the intention or the desire from the perpetrator but we can take away the opportunity. So bearing this in mind, we urge parents and guardians out there to take their responsibility seriously and do not let the perpetrators have the opportunity to interfere with children…” she said.
Chairperson of the Child Protection Authority (CPA), Ann David-Antoine pointed out that her body intends to embark upon a two-prong approach – a preventative role and a care and protection role.
She said: “We have seen the need to look for the support to those who are affected, to those who are victims of the problem that we are facing – Child Sexual Abuse.
“…From the point of view of support, we are looking and working assiduously to set up a support system, headed by the Child Protection Authority but involving all of the players within the field and that would be the churches, members of the public and every single adult in our society whether in a professional role or in personal role, to ensure that there is support which will also help with the prevention.
“It will be for the members of the child’s family, for the members of the perpetrators family, for the public-at-large and all of the areas in which the child is involved…”.