CDA names child abuse hot spots
THE parish of Westmoreland in western Jamaica has the highest number of child abuse cases in the island, with 500 active cases up to yesterday.
The Child Development Agency’s (CDA’s) Rosalee Gage-Grey made the disclosure yesterday at the end of a march to lobby for greater protection of the nation’s children from abuse.
“Reports that we get we see what we call ‘hot spots’ such as Westmoreland. The whole belt from just near Savana-La- Mar, Negril, going back to Green Island, Hanover is a hot spot. We see right now in Westmoreland alone 500 active cases of reports that are being investigated.
Other hot spots to which Gage Grey pointed were St Ann; May Pen and hilly areas of Clarendon; Kingston and St Andrew; and St Thomas.
In the case of the latter, Gage-Grey said the incidence was under reported, as the number of reports do not match the cases on the ground.
“The cases that are reported to us are growing daily. We get about 200 cases per week. This is stretching us, but we are not broken because we are committed to the task of finding every one of those children and more importantly, we are committed to finding all those men and women who continue to abuse our children,” she said.
The march, which began and ended at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre in Kingston was organised by Dr Michael Abrahams, founder of Protect Our Children. He told the Jamaica Observer that yesterday’s event was part of a movement to create public awareness about the gravity of issues involving children, and to raise money for the effort.
” When I was going to do the march people asked a very pertinent question, ‘What use is a march any way?’ It has a lot of usage; there was a march on Friday and a good friend of mine was speaking into the PA system he kept on saying ‘report child abuse’. An about a hour later there was a man out there saying that he knows a 13-year-old who is being abused. What do I do about it? I didn’t know until this week that the number is 188- protect,” he related.
Scores of Jamaicans from several organisations participated in the march, bearing placards and demanding an end to the abuse of the nation’s children.
Cases of child abuse, particulalrly murder and sexual abuse, appear to be been on the increase recently. So much so that it dominated Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller’s address for Child Month which was broadcast last night.
“(Children) embody the present and represent the future. For me, children are the precious jewels of the nation; a valuable resource that must be cherished and protected. Children must be loved, cared for and nurtured,” Simpson Miller said.
“Yet, it is with a deep sense of concern and sadness that I take note of the recent cases of abuse and crimes against our children. These horrendous acts against our children, including murder, are unacceptable.The brutal killing of our children is a vile and dreadful occurrence that is alien to our culture.”
The prime minister said she was also concerned about instances of parental neglect as children who are neglected are exposed to violence, sexual abuse and murder.
“The abuse of our children must never be condoned by anyone, under any circumstances,” she said. “Too many of our children are being subjected to heartrending violence and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, many times carried out by family members and other persons they trust. This must be dealt with immediately and firmly.”
Simpson Miller said government was taking “tough action” to that end.
“Cabinet has approved a submission from the minister of justice to, among other things, prescribe harsher penalties for persons who murder, rape or commit other serious violent offences against children. They will meet the full force of the law,” she warned.
“In these cases, the victim’s status as a child will be treated as an aggravating feature resulting in a harsher sentence on conviction. Cabinet also approved a proposal for those cases to be given priority treatment in the trial list, with respect to scheduling and disposal,” the prime minister said.
Simpson Miller said too, that work is underway for legislation to be passed to create a new offence of parental neglect.
“When this comes into effect, a parent whose child is found in circumstances consistent with inadequate parental care and attention,can be charged and tried for parental neglect. Such circumstances will include children found unsupervised on the streets or other public places late at night, or, a child, found living with an adult where the arrangement exposes the child to the risk of sexual or other abuse,” she continued.