Speak up and break the silence on child abuse and neglect!

This call was made by participants of yesterday???s rally held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre which launched the Break the Silence ??? End Child Abuse campaign, which is being facilitated by the Child Care Board in collaboration with UNICEF. The event was also held to mark Universal Children???s Day, which is celebrated annually on November 20.

During the three-hour event, government ministers, authority figures and students from schools across the island delivered speeches, performed dramatic pieces, and poetry and dance in an effort to heighten the awareness of child abuse and neglect in our society.

Joining supporters of the campaign was Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, Steve Blackett, who described child abuse and neglect as a ???serious scourge on society???.

The Minister revealed that between April 1, 2012 and March 31 this year, 780 cases of child abuse and neglect were reported to the Child Care Board, from which 1,087 children were affected. He, however, noted that those figures did not adequately represent all of the victims, and, therefore, urged children, and adults alike, to ???speak up??? and report any suspicious actions.

???Failure to report incidents of abuse can undoubtedly lead to continued abuse that can further compromise the health and well-being of children???Child abuse and neglect, as well as gender-based violence, is often the manifestation of the presence of deeper sociological and psychological issues.

???Apart from lending a listening ear when someone is clearly distressed, or giving a kind word, persons need to take the additional step of directing others to institutions or places where they can get tangible help, or by informing the relevant authorities of their concerns,??? the Social Care Minister stressed.

Reiterating the importance of addressing the issue of child abuse and neglect, Minister Blackett affirmed his Ministry???s continued commitment to protecting the children of this island who, ???through no fault of their own, are unable to protect themselves???.

??????Our children are precious to us. They are integral to our families, communities and the nation as a whole???and we are duty bound to care and protect them; and not abuse or neglect them,??? he asserted.

The Minister pointed out that the Child Care Board would be engaging communities, through community-based organisations, the Community Development Department and the Constituency Councils, to join in the drive to Break the Silence ??? End Child Abuse.

???I am satisfied that once we start working together as communities protecting our children, we will see improvements???I, sincerely, believe that if we collectively make a genuine effort we can prevent and reduce the number of children who are referred to the Child Care Board as cases of alleged abuse and neglect. However, this can only be achieved by breaking the conspiracy of fear and silence,??? he stated.

Giving the assurance that Government would ensure that adequate legislation and resources were readily available to assist victims of child abuse, the Minister alluded to the Mandatory Reporting Protocol which will set out the categories of persons or professions to whom incidents of abuse should be reported, and also outline the process for reporting.??


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