Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bahamas: Child sex abuse cases up 42%

By Keva Lightbourne ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

Reported cases of child sexual abuse are up 42 percent over last year, according to Deputy Director of Social Services Carolyn Hepburn.

Hepburn revealed to The Nassau Guardian yesterday that so far for 2010, 118 cases have been reported, up from 83 in the same period last year.

"That is primarily due to the enactment of the Child Protection Act 2007 in October last year. So therefore persons are mandated by law to report abuse and we find that children are stepping forward, relatives and concerned individuals are becoming more vigilant," Hepburn said.

Of the 118 reported child sexual abuse cases, 26 have been recorded in New Providence and 92 in the Family Islands.

Chairman of the National Child Protection Council Pastor Gil Maycock said he believes child sexual abuse is far greater than what is being reported.

"We do have an alarming epidemic in our nation and it drives me crazy," he said. "These numbers seem to be increasing over the last three or four years. They just seem to be going up. We do know in certain pockets in The Bahama Islands we are having serious problems. The Council plans to travel to at least 10 or 11 Family Islands for the remainder of 2010 to get that message out (that children are off limits) and we know it is an uphill battle."

Last year, there were 218 reported cases of child sexual abuse in the country. Of that number, 155 were recorded in New Providence, with the remaining 63 reported in the Family Islands.

"In our efforts throughout this year we are going to continue to make sure that we are addressing it in the schools," Maycock said.

He pointed to the Council's 'Say No Then Go' campaign, which has been launched in primary schools to educate students about the difference between "a good touch and a bad touch."

Maycock reminded that anyone below the age of 16 "is considered to be a child and should not be touched by anyone."

"One of the reasons we feel the increase in reporting of cases [has occurred] is because we have been getting the message out. [With] the Ministry of Labour [and] Social Development', [the] Child Protection Council and other agencies, we have over the last 10 years been really getting the message out and so a lot more children know about what child abuse is; they know who to report it to and that is one of the reasons we believe we are starting to see a greater number of cases being reported to the various agencies. We know the battle is still great," said Maycock.

April 01, 2010