Feature: Challenging Task for Abused Children

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(Photo??from dialog.ua.edu)??

For children who have never been sexually abused it may prove less challenging to enter this year’s essay and poster competitions sponsored by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) and UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) Eastern Caribbean Office.

With homes possessing at least one computer, all that is required is a simple click of the mouse and the exploration of the subject matter Child Sexual Abuse Through My Eyes: How Do I Protect Myself??? on search engines like ???Google’, ???Ask Jeeves’, ???Dog Pile’ and ???Yahoo’.?? Similarly, a young child, guided by an adult, can research the theme in Barbados’ under-utilised library system and find, with consummate ease, that he/she can breathe life into the composition or poster.

But what about those who have truly been abused???

The ???broken dolls’ whose stories we desire to hear, will most likely not be among this year’s competition entrants – and rightly so. Indeed, they may be unwilling to take up the challenge of spreading the word that child abuse and neglect can have shattering and deleterious effects on victims. Their tale of sexual abuse may never be recounted through their eyes; at least, not in their childhood years.??

Not even the opportunity to own the latest gizmos and gadgets, in a technologically advanced world, will do much to attract a response from these youngsters?? whose lives have been consumed by fears of reprisal from sexual predators and paedophiles – not to mention the years of guilt, created by adults who refuse to believe them.?? Moreover, the repeated demonising of them by society for acts perpetrated by adults and not of their own undoing, may simply add to this reluctance to make their voices heard in any art form.

In the final analysis, for these innocent victims, having experienced the trauma of molestation or rape, the wall of silence may be their sole protection. To them, it is now too late to examine "how do I protect myself?" – or is it???????

While we may await a personal account of a child’s experience of this horrible act, for the most part we will have to hear it second hand – from those who have never been abused and whose aim it is to unite in the fight against this scourge. Their stories and art work will delineate the negative impacts on the health and psychological well-being of children, how it destabilises families and lessens the educational chances of our youth.?? And, they will seek to offer solutions and interventions to prevent recurrences.

Child Sexual Abuse Through My Eyes: How Do I Protect Myself? will, therefore, become for many entrants, the tale of abuse and neglect encountered by someone else at the hands of a father/mother, step-mother/father or extended family members such as?? uncles/aunts, cousins and grandparents.

In the depiction of their work to the BGIS and UNICEF, it is expected that they will tell parents how to detect the critical warning signs of abuse and direct them and their charges to agencies that can intervene in any suspected case. Conversely, competition entrants will denounce grown-ups who prove to be the perpetrators, call for a register of predators/paedophiles and for the establishment of a database, capable of providing immediate information on the last known addresses of these sexual offenders and details on their offences. Quite arguably, they will also exhort others to "be empathetic" and "take time to listen and understand what the child is going through".

This will be their battle cry.

Sadly, however, for many like the eight-year-old girl in Jamaica, who was among five females viciously raped in the community of Irwin, St. James on September 24, and, closer to home, the young boys assaulted in June last year at St. Stephens, Black Rock, their story may not be recounted.

But should these stories not be told? We say they should. As a society, we need to ensure that the scourge of child abuse is given no quarter and that our children’s innocence is protected and their future, free of abuse, is secured.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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