The understood definition of child abuse or child maltreatment can vary across the cultures but the clinical definition of child abuse is the sexual, physical, emotional, and neglectful maltreatment of a child. Abuse is often committed by loved ones or someone who knows the child. In addition, regarding disclosure, there are many reasons why a child is reluctant to ‘tell’ or reveal the perpetrator’s identity. A few examples include fear of the perpetrator, fear of retaliation, manipulation, or instructing the child to keep the abuse a secret. Furthermore, a child may be unwilling to reveal who the offender is because the offender may have told the child that no one will believe him or her, or the child may be experiencing guilt, shame, or confusion. Lastly, a child cannot tell if abuse is occurring due to their age, in the matter of an infant or toddler. Recently, there has been an influx of child abuse cases reported in Guyana.
Guyana is a South American country surrounded by three neighboring countries: Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Guyana is a heterogeneous ethnically diverse country with a makeup of African, Asian, European, East Indian, Portuguese, and Amerindian descendants. In addition, Guyana’s estimated population size is 735, 909. Children ages 0-14 years make up 27.12% of the population and children ages 15-24 years make up 21.46% of the population (2017 U.S., CIA World Fact Book). Though children account for more than a third of the population; the increase of child abuse has become prevalent and rampant in this Caribbean South American country.
During the first two months of this year alone, the Ministry of Social Protection recorded 765 reported cases of children being abused. This represents an average of about 13 cases being reported on a daily basis. It also signals an increase in numbers, since figures for the corresponding period last year show 678 reports of child abuse. Of the 765 reported cases, the headcount of the children who were actually abused stood at 708. (Ahamad, 2017).
Guyana’s Ministry of Social Protection deserves commendation for recognizing the rising number of child abuse cases in Guyana. It is also laudable that the collection of data supports the reported cases of child abuse and made public through media news. However, to eliminate or reduce child abuse from occurring, education and public awareness should play an integral role in the Guyanese society. Enforcing criminal laws relating to child abuse, prevention, treatment, societal/ parental responsibility and accountability, and reporting are just a few examples on how to educate the Guyanese society on preventing child abuse.
Additionally, using social media as a means of communication, along with media news coverage, campaigns to raise awareness, community engagements in schools, churches, and various public areas, and utilizing billboards across the country are potential vehicles for raising public awareness to prevent child abuse. Lastly, implementing prevention programs in schools and hospitals can bring awareness to address child abuse.
The Ministry of Social Protection and the people of Guyana that have the power to eliminate or reduce the rate of child abuse through partnership. Hopefully supporting efforts to bolster education, public awareness, and a strong justice system to prosecute perpetrators will not only build a stronger society but will protect and save children’s lives.
Ahamad, R. (2017, April 9). 765 reported cases of child abuse in just two months. Kaieteur News, Retrieved from http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2017/04/09/765-reported-cases-of-child-abuse-in-just-two-months/
United States CIA World Fact Book and Other Sources (2017, January 12). Guyana People 2017, Retrieved from http://www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/guyana/guyana_people.html
Ahamad, R. (2017, April 14). Molestation of young boys in the rise. Kaieteur News, Retrieved from http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2017/04/14/molestation-of-young-boys-on-the-rise/
Child rights activist calls for child sexual abuse cases to be expedited (2017, April 10). Guyana Times, Retrieved from http://guyanatimesgy.com/child-rights-activist-calls-for-child-sexual-abuse-cases-to-be-expedited/
4 minutes 4 change-A close call for Carlos (his story) (2017, April 23). Guyana Chronicle, Retrieved from https://guyanachronicle.com/2017/04/23/4-minutes-4-change-a-close-call-for-carlos-his-story
Photo Credit: thisguyhere, Pixabay, License: CC Public Domain
Aneeta Pearson, MSW, MS
(c) 2017-2018 ANEETA PEARSON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED