There is a silent war going on in Jamaica. It is a war against our women and children. The reality of sexual abuse and sexual violence against women and children in Jamaica is incredibly disturbing. It goes way beyond the horror stories we all read in the papers. In 2012 alone there have been over 1,000 reports of sexual abuse in Jamaica. The World Health Organization has called sexual abuse of children in the Caribbean a “silent emergency.” This is a topic that you have probably read about numerous times, but one that we should never stop talking about so long as our children are being preyed on!
Primary prevention is a tool that is underutilized in many areas of health care. Primary prevention is providing education before the fact, not after the fact, to equip persons with the tools needed for prevention of an illness or incident. We as a country must not only protect our women and children but also empower them with the necessary education to help prevent and stop incidences of sexual abuse. We must encourage them to report abuse and also assure them that they will be protected from perpetrators.
We must talk to our children! This is incredibly important. I am urging you all to have this talk with your children. Parents are in the position to have the most influential role in their children’s lives. Maintain and open and trustworthy relationship with your children.
Mothers and fathers talk to your daughters and sons about appropriate and inappropriate touching! No one – not Uncle John, not grandpa, not the pastor at church, should touch your child in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable is a subjective experience. Let your children know that if anything makes them feel uncomfortable about the way someone touches them they have the RIGHT (no matter who it is) to tell that person they don’t like it, or reach out to parents for help. Let them know you will help them. Teach them about autonomy. About personal space!
My advice is to teach your children the appropriate terms for their genital parts, rather than using nicknames. It is important they know their anatomy so that if a situation does arise and they are disclosing abuse it will be clear to those they are disclosing to.
Coach your children in saying assertively simple things such as “NO!” or “STOP!” if someone is doing something to make them feel uncomfortable. Instilling children with the confidence to say “NO!” may be just enough to scare off a perpetrator.
Your children must know and believe that you will protect them. Assure them that no matter what anyone tells them, no matter what threat is made by an abuser, they will be protected. Often time’s abusers threaten to harm the child or members of the child’s family if they disclose the abuse. Its important for your children to know they can come to their parents, teachers, doctors, aunts, uncles etc for help and support.
Most importantly BELIEVE your children if they disclose sexual abuse to you! I repeat BELIEVE your children. They need to know you support them. They need to trust you. They need to feel validated. If you don’t validate them they may feel even more helpless. Worse, the abuse will continue. It is incredibly RARE that a child will make up stories of being abused.
Do NOT blame your child for the abuse. Do not shame them! It is a MYTH that a child might have somehow done something to bring the abuse upon them. The abuser is ALWAYS at fault. Victim blaming is also common in cases of rape of women. “Oh she dressed sexy, what did she expect!” NO ONE has the right to violate your body! NO ONE! By saying a woman was “asking for it” we are saying that it is okay for a man to rape a woman or visa versa. The child is NEVER responsible for the abuse. The child is ALWAYS the victim. If your child does disclose it is important for them to know this, and also to know that what was done to them was WRONG.
Know what steps to take if you suspect your child is being abused or they disclose abuse to you. Know what resources are available to you in your parish. Know which organizations you can reach out to for help, and if need be seek the support of close relatives or friends etc whom you can trust.
*The Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA)
*Child Abuse Reporting System (CARS) – Reporting system to CISOCA for smart phones can be downloaded via blackberry app world.
*Help JA Children – Advocacy Group
Sexual abuse and molestation has far too long been a taboo in Jamaica society. It is the elephant in the room or the deeply hidden family secret. Pedophiles and rapists have silenced our children’s voices. We must take a stand against them and make it known we will not tolerate in our society, in our culture, in our country – sexual abuse of our women or children anymore! Bring shame to the old men who prey on young vulnerable schoolgirls! TAKE BACK OUR COUNTRY! Have the talk with your children! Give them the weapon of education to protect themselves!