Child abuse cases on the rise, government and opposition express concern

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Photo by Eman Genitilan

Recognizing the growing number of recorded cases, the United Workers Party (UWP) condemns all forms of child abuse in Dominica.

It has been reported that child sexual abuse continues to top the list of reported offenses against children on the island.

“The United Workers Party condemns all of these atrocities and calls on everyone to play a role in eliminating this evil,” said UWP Senator Francisca Joseph. “These people include governments, lawmakers, parents, extended families, teachers, clerics and other members of the community.”

She continued, “We all need to speak up now, no matter where this is happening and provide medical and legal help and psychological support to these survivors.”

Joseph said the UWP is concerned and is deeply committed to ending the continued violence against children in this nation, “whether sexual, physical or emotional abuse.”

“Abuse does more than harm these children,” Joseph said. “It undermines the very fabric of this country.”

Additionally, she said abused children can have difficulty learning and this can even compromise their ability to become productive adults.

“Too often this abuse is hidden in the shadows; too many of us turn a blind eye and far too many of our children lack self-confidence or are afraid to speak up,” Joseph lamented.

Meanwhile, in a press release, the UWP condemned all forms of child abuse and called for the establishment of mechanisms to establish a family court which the party says would expedite due process in matters relating to the care and protection of children and adolescents.

The party insists that the incidence of many cases within the justice system that have languished “for more than half a decade or more” must be eliminated.

“The United Workers Party calls on this administration to end the abuse of power, the constant targeted victimization of its citizens, the inequitable distribution of state resources to only a few when so many are in the need. This atrocious behavior further aggravates the already volatile situation of child abuse, where parents are unable to provide for the basic needs of children, leaving these children prey to perpetrators to continue the cycle of abuse.

He further stated that recent statistics from the Division of Social Welfare indicate that cases of child abuse in Dominica continue to increase at an “alarming rate” and that, as always, sexual abuse dominates.

Statistics revealed that more than one hundred (100) cases of sexual abuse are reported every year, followed by neglect and emotional abuse. In some cases, children do not know their abuser; sometimes it’s a family member or close family friend.

Unreported cases of abuse against boys are also a major concern.

“This grave and horrific crime against the nation’s children calls for urgent action; this affront to humanity and the dignity of an innocent person must end. When children as young as two (2) and five (5) years old are raped, then we know that this emergency has reached crisis level and therefore requires action by all.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) ratified by Dominica in March 1991, has duly taken into account the rights of the child and the government must ensure that it respects the four (4) fundamental principles of the Convention, namely: discrimination, dedication to the best interests of the child, the right to life, survival and development.

“The undue delay in bringing these perpetrators to justice creates an environment where our children can be abused and the abuser faces little or no consequences.”

The UWP called on every individual to report cases of child abuse, adding that keeping silent to protect individuals and institutions will further aggravate the situation.

“Silence is not an option. All citizens must rise NOW and answer the voiceless cry of our abused children.

On July 25, 2021, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit announced on his weekly talk show Annou Pale that in the upcoming 2021-2022 budget scheduled for July 28, his government intends to increase the staff of the Division of social protection to help combat sexual abuse, “especially against children”.

In December 2020, the Acting Coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Unit of the Social Welfare Division, Nicole Toussaint Jno Baptiste, told Dominica News Online (DNO), that the number of child abuse cases in Children in Dominica continues to rise, with sexual abuse once again leading the way.

She noted that the reported cases are widespread.

“Sometimes children don’t know their abuser, or sometimes it’s a family or a close friend of the family. Based on the cases we receive, it’s very varied on who the abusers are,” she explained.

Jno. Baptiste said more than 100 reports of sexual abuse are made each year and that number sometimes reaches more than 160.

Statistics also showed that more than 1,200 children were abused on the island between 2010 and 2016. Of these, 900 of these cases were sexually related.

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