Some 179 boys and 801 girls were sexually molested, totalling 980 cases in 2018 recorded by the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA). However, authorities believe that this is not a true reflection of this scourge in Guyana, and a significant number of such cases continue to be unreported annually.
The Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency, Ann Greene, during her address at the recently held University of Guyana (UG) Tain Talks – themed “Interrogating Sexual Violence in Guyana”— revealed that many victims do not have a voice to tell their stories or the ability to identify their abusers.
“So the reports we have may just only be a tip of the iceberg and this is not unique to Guyana. It is believed that 90 per cent of sexual violence against children are not reported to authorities. And of the cases that are reported, how many have made it through the judicial system?”
She explained that all sexual abuse cases reported to her agency are subsequently reported to the Police because a crime has been committed and failure to do so is a felony as outlined in the Protection of Children Act. However, when the reports are forwarded to the Police, a series of events occur; which in the past, have proven to have negative results in ensuring the perpetrators pay for the crimes they would have committed.
“A number of these events was not children-friendly. And from reports, the main contributory factor to cases not making its way to and through the judicial system is faulty interrogation processes starting with the child not being believed”.
However, according to Greene, the establishment of child advocacy centres in 2014 helped to improve services relating to handling child sexual abuse cases.
But, to date, there are still problems which need to be addressed at these “one stop advocacy centres” that must lead to improved inter-professional, interagency collaboration for greater impact on the lives of children, she acknowledged.
“There is still the power and authority struggle and seeming lack of integration and cohesion among the team members. Some, at times, would lose the connection with each other and appear to be working independently and not effectively collaborating to achieve common goals. Because the child victim tends to be the only eye witness to sexual abuse other than the perpetrator, the child report is an extremely important piece of evidence in any abuse case”.
In light of this importance, the CCPA Director emphasised that “great care” must be taken in getting a child’s report, so that the best quality of evidence could be obtained.
This, in turn, will ensure that the perpetrator can be brought to justice and to protect the child at the same time.
“There must be social change to prevent the re-victimisation through lack of child-friendly and faulty interrogation practices. Child sexual assault can last a lifetime and spans generations. This sexual assault on our children must stop at all costs,” she added.
Just four months ago, ChildLink— an activist group – found in a study that it had conducted in 2018 that there has been a whopping increase in the number of children being abused.
According to the ChildLink report, national statistics compiled by CCPA confirmed that abuse of children – both physical and sexual – starts from as young as birth to three years old. The data indicates that the sexual abuse of girl children remains high in the country. The number of reported cases is as follows: 801 in 2018, 392 in 2017 and 616 in 2016. Similarly, cases reported for boy children were 179 in 2018, 442 in 2017 and 118 in 2016.
The ChildLink research also found that children between the ages of 14 to 18 and 8 to 13 years were more vulnerable to these attacks.
The Non-Governmental Organisation also found in its research that some parents were reluctant to accept the abuse story their children had told them.
In this regard, it was noted that all victims, at one point after their abuse, blamed themselves for what happened