The sexual abuse of children in Barbados is a challenge, largely because of the under-reporting of such incidents.

Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steven Blackett, said today that it was time to break the silence on this issue, so that adequate measures could be put in place to deal with it.

He was speaking at a workshop organised by the Child Care Board and the United Nations Children???s Fund (UNICEF) entitled Let???s Break the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse, which was held at the Hilton Barbados.

Contending that the silence on this issue was fundamentally due to the fact that child sexual abuse was largely a hidden phenomenon, he said that tackling this issue was further compromised by significant under-reporting, for a variety of reasons.

He pointed to figures for the years 2008 to 2009 and 2012 to 2013 and noted that the Child Care Board had recorded some 1, 013 cases of child sexual abuse over those periods.

???We need to break the silence, wherever it is occurring, at home, at school, in the community. We must report to the authorities any suspected cases of abuse. We must speak up and in so doing, ensure the safety of the nation???s children,??? Minister Blackett stated.

The Minister also stressed that the sexual abuse of children was a crime and that everyone in the community should be involved in bringing such activities to the fore.

??????Children represent a vulnerable population since they depend upon others for their development and moral compass. As a result, we need to take the necessary steps to assist them. We, as adult citizens of Barbados, need to reclaim our children from whatever negative forces that overshadow their development. There is nothing more troubling than a child being abused and that abuse is not reported,??? he said.

However, Mr. Blackett highlighted the fact that the disclosure of such instances should be done with the goal of finding solutions, healing and restoration, and not for sensationalism.

The workshop is the first of two to be held on child sexual abuse and is part of Barbados??? commitment to ensuring the fulfilment of the Bridgetown Declaration and its Agenda for Action to Combat Child Sexual Abuse, which was signed on November 21, 2012.

kim.ramsay-moore@barbados.gov.bb

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