25th of September, 2020. Georgetown, Guyana, South AmericaLast updated: September 25, 2020 at 10:13 am
Child abuse is a hidden crime; it is often committed behind closed doors with victims deprived of the ability to tell of the abuse. Children are abused sexually, emotionally and physically.
Regrettably, as the world is grappling with Covid-19, children continue to endure indescribable emotional and physical torment. Covid-19 has also severely affected the avenues of reporting open to our children, and many of them are exposed to repeated abuse during this period.
What is even more gut-wrenching is the fact that in many instances the heinous acts committed against these innocent children are perpetrated by people they know and trust: people they believe are meant to keep them safe.
We must break the silence on child abuse. Children who can speak must be encouraged to tell, and we must speak out and stand up for those who cannot. But more importantly, we need to listen and take them seriously. Every time we dismiss a child who dredges up the courage to tell us of abuse, we don’t only lose their trust and break their hearts, but we also force them into a silent hell with nowhere to turn and as easy targets for their abusers.
I appeal to all the mothers, parents and elders to listen, hear, believe and help that child to speak out and report! Now more than ever, families and communities must be safe havens for children especially during the pandemic.
Child Protection is multi-dimensional, and if efforts are to be impactful in championing the cause of children, EVERYONE must be involved in their protection. To achieve this – collaboration is key. The Childcare and Protection Agency cannot do it alone. We need the support of the family, the school, Religious Organizations and the wider community.
It is an uphill battle to keep children safe – preventing abuse, harm and exploitation. “Protecting Children and Empowering Families to Cope with the Global Pandemic” is this year’s theme for child protection week which will be observed from September 20 to 26. The theme is fitting as the Ministry understands the importance of a nurturing family in the development of children, therefore, families need to be educated and supported in their role.
Children too have to be empowered and be given information for a first line of defense against child abuse. However, it is not the children’s responsibility to protect themselves. This is the role of adults. To turn a blind eye to such injustice is to be a part of the problem and not the solution. We must change our attitudes toward how children are viewed and treated and be advocates for their care and protection. We must change those social norms that continue to nurture abuse and exploitation of children at the highest level.
From a Ministry’s standpoint, we have intensified our Multi-media Awareness Campaign across the Regions to be able to reach all segments of society, to educate on the plight of children who suffer abuse and to highlight signs and symptoms to push the public into protective action.
Efforts are also being made to educate, sensitise and support parents. This is being done through the Agency’s Partnership Development Programme with Local Groups, Faith-Based and Community-Based Organisations, but much more is needed from the public at large to rid our society of child abuse.
Child Protection is the responsibility of all adults. Every adult must see himself/herself as a child protector and not a perpetrator or a condoner of abuse of children. Let us be even more vigilant, working together to do our part, to help vulnerable children and families during this Pandemic and beyond.