The Director of the Child Care and Protection Agency of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Ann Greene says sexual activity with a six-month old baby girl is among 529 reported cases of child sexual abuse for this year during the coronavirus pandemic.
“During this period of the pandemic, we received a report of a six-month old chubby baby girl who had to be admitted to the hospital with signs of sexual penetration,” she said. Ms. Greene said police investigations were continuing.
Though Child Advocacy Centres have been established to allow victims to talk about their hurt and pain and receive after-care and court support services, she said court-approved extensions beyond the 72-hour constitutional time-limit for detention are hardly ever sought by police to complete investigations and charge perpetrators.
“This is hardly done in sexual abuse of children. The alleged perpetrators are let out of custody at the end of 72 hours and they walk away from the cases and even from the country sometimes. This results in difficulties for the victims and a number of victims are in protective care for years waiting on the investigation to be completed and the case brought to the courts,” she said.
Figures show that more than 800 cases of child sexual abuse are still at the investigation level.
The Child Care and Protection Director called for a quick-response unit in the Guyana Police Force staffed with specially trained police officers, social services officers, child protection officers, public health officers to fast-track investigations to bring child sexual abusers to justice and prevent the scourge.
She also indicated that three hinterland regions are registering high levels of CCPA responded to those cases of child sexual abuse based on the 529 reports from January to August, 2020. She said Region Nine (Upper Takatu-Upper Essequibo) has the highest rate of abuse with 4.6 per 1,000 children, Region One with 3.8 percent and Region 7 with 2.7 percent.
The CCPA Chief expressed concern that the Guyana Police Force has not been charging mothers who are complicit in their children’s sexual abuse. “I am yet to get the police to bring such a charge. It is needed more than ever now to send a message of deterrence,” she said. The Child Care and Protection Director said her government agency was ready to assist mothers to speak out about the exploitation of children.
Ms. Greene noted that people, including parents, know that children are being sexually abused but say nothing, while children are themselves threatened not to say anything. “Some mothers know that their children are being molested. It is done with their full knowledge but they appear to be comfortable with it and may even threaten the children if they tell, what-and-what they will do to them or tell them the man is going to go to prison and the family will suffer so the children, with love for the family, will not give the statement,” she said, adding that others leave out references to their mothers’ knowledge. She added that when the charges are laid, mothers convince their children to change their story. Ms. Greene said that some mothers were victims of child sexual abuse and so it becomes a cycle in the family.
“It is to believe that from the nature of child sexual abuse that many victims literally do not have a voice to tell or a mind to know that what was done to them was not a norm or should not have happened,” Ms. Greene said.
Another hurdle, she said, facing officials is the difficulty being experienced to get doctors to agree that a child’s hymen is not intact. “Diagnosing that a child’s hymen is not intact, you become a witness in the case and can be called to testify,” she said, despite heightened public awareness.
With children out of school since March, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said an analysis of data shows that there has been a reduction in the number of reported cases of child sexual abuse. “This is attributed to school being out. When school is in, there is more opportunity to spot abuse but when it comes to sexual abuse, this is a serious hidden crime with victims being threatened and coerced not to tell,” she told a virtual rally to mark this year’s Child Protection Week.
Ms, Greene says studies show that between 12 and 30 percent of child sexual cases are reported to authorities, meaning that the “the reports we have received may be only the tip of the iceberg. ”
“If you see something, say something”,’ she appealed to the public , adding that the Hotline Number is 227-0979. “We must break the silence on child sexual abuse.”