STARTLING FIGURES showing a dramatic increase in child abuse last year have once again placed the issue squarely on the national agenda for debate.
Statistics from the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) show that since 2007 little more than 12,000 reports of child abuse were recorded by the registry. Of this number, 6,000 reports were received in 2009.
Since the start of the year, the office has already received more than 1,600 reports.
But despite the huge figures, registrar at the OCR Carla Francis Edie said a more significant number of the incidents go unreported.
“Our ‘informer fi dead’ culture has prevented many persons from coming forward to report child abuse for fear of their lives,” she said while speaking at the official launch of Child Month 2010 at the Institute of Jamaica, downtown Kingston, under the theme ‘All I Want is a Chance to Grow Up’. “Yet, so many of our children are still silently suffering from the cruelty of abuse and many of them are afraid to speak out,” she added.
Alluding to the many negative effects that child abuse has on children’s lives such as physical and emotional damages, Edie said it was evident that when an abused child did not receive the needed interventions to recover, it poses a significant threat to his development.
Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) Dr Carolyn Gomes said the society had to build itself around the principle of offering to every child an opportunity to fulfil his potential. She said society should take responsibility in securing the nation’s children’s future. “While we have made impressive strides with access to health, nutrition, education and social welfare, even if all our millennium development goals are met, of the 977,000 children under the age of 18 years, thousands will be left out,” she said.
“These are the most in need, the most vulnerable and the abused, we need to change that, we need to ensure that instead of declining allocation to children’s budget we have increasing allocations to children’s programme in the Budget,” Gomes added. The JFJ head added that the prevalence of antisocial activities could be as a result of how the children were treated in society. Director of the National Child Month Committee, Dr Pauline Mullings, made a passionate plea for parents to take responsibility in helping their children to have a chance to grow up. “I call on the parents and caregivers love your children, make time to talk with them, strengthen their weaknesses,” she said. Dr Mullings noted that child abuse must be addressed as it had caused many of the nation’s children to be transformed into little bodies with adult minds and attitudes.
Data from OCR on reported cases of child abuse