Saturday 11 July, 2020

Child registry concerned about drop in child abuse reports under COVID

Representatives of the National Child Registry are revealing that reports of suspected child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect have fallen off dramatically since children have been stuck at home and away from their friends and schools because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has shortened school academic terms.

 “The influx of calls for physical abuse and sexual abuse is not as heavy as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic," Monique Thompson, a registration officer of the National Child Registry, said.

"We're getting mostly physical abuse calls, but we do see sexual abuse cases as well, which are coming in. So there are reports coming in, not as much as we expected though, and that is a concern because when you expect to see certain numbers, we are wondering what is happening to children who may (actually) be in abusive situations," she elaborated.

Thompson is one of the employees who receive reports, and once abuse is suspected, cases are referred for further investigation by the officers at the Child Protection and Family Services Association (CPFSA).

"Because of the lockdown, unfortunately children don’t have a lot of contacts with guidance counsellors, teachers or mentors, as they are at home in quarantine with potential abusers (in some cases). School would have been their way out, and an escape (route) outside the home or the situation where the abuse may be happening," Thompson further said.

According to the National Children's Registry, over 20,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Jamaica over a period of 11 years, from 2007 to 2017. Of that number, 18,869 of the reported targets were females. There was a high of 3,412 cases reported in 2015.

Only last week, a Westmoreland man was posthumously charged with rape and incest after allegedly raping his 13-year-old daughter. The man reportedly took his own life by ingesting a poisonous substance after reports of the abuse began to circulate in his community. 

Experts theorise that sexual exploitation can cause stress and suicidal feelings in children, which make it more difficult to focus or stick to their normal sleeping patterns.

Parents are being urged to monitor the online activities of their children, as offenders often lurk on major social media platforms and lesser known chat sites and gaming platforms, sharing images and videos already in their possession and also soliciting new material from young victims.

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