Almost every other day, the country receives news from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service about arrests made in relation to the sexual assault of minors. Some days there are multiple statements of cases detailing the exploitation, trauma and horrors being inflicted upon young girls and boys—many times by the very ones trusted to provide them with love, guidance and care they need to develop wholesome lives.
These children, already scarred by sexual assault, are further victimised as they are often threatened with violence in a bid to maintain their silence when the predators who prey on them feel they are close to being exposed or sometimes even after they have been caught.
Some of the more troubling reports this year include reports of a father caught raping his 14-year-old daughter at his workplace and a grandfather charged for sexually assaulting his seven-year-old grandson.
Officers from the TTPS’ Child Protection Unit have been working diligently to investigate these reports and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Last year, some 590 charges were laid by the unit. CPU head, Ag Woman Superintendent Natasha George, recently said they were uncertain if the COVID-19 pandemic was to blame for the seeming current upsurge in cases, since some children were being sexually abused over a period of time. What Supt George did confirm was that children who were being victimised were now mustering courage to report the crimes via the TTPS’ social media apps and online. Indeed a brave and bold step by these children to regain some normalcy in their lives.
But sex crimes against children are not new to this country.
Last year, Secretary of the Association of Psychiatrists of T&T Dr Varma Deyalsingh lamented that sexual abuse and assault of children have been plaguing this country for too long. Last month, Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy revealed over 4,000 cases of child abuse were reported to the Children’s Authority, with sex abuse making up the largest chunk.
But despite the condemnation and disgust, more children continue to suffer.
It is clear that greater intervention is needed. Apart from the victims themselves, some of it must be directed to the perpetrators, since some of them have psychological issues tied to being victims of abuse and violence when they were young.
The time is ripe for teachers, police officers, social workers and other stakeholders to come together and meet with both children and the adults for a meaningful intervention.
Children must be taught there is a way out of the abuse and that there are safe places they can go. In addition, the adults, and by extension the perpetrators, should also be made aware of the penalties and punishments that come with abusing and endangering a child.
The old adage of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ must be applied here but instead, we must say it takes a village to stop a sexual attack against a child.