Didn’t do enough

Ad­vo­cate says sys­tem failed 12-year-old sex­ual abuse vic­tim

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - BY JAMES MCLEOD

The province’s child and youth ad­vo­cate says the sys­tem failed a 12-year-old girl who was sex­u­ally as­saulted by her step­fa­ther, and then taken by him to get an abor­tion in the province. In a re­port re­leased last Wed­nes­day, Jac­que­line Lake Ka­vanagh de­tailed a sit­u­a­tion where a fam­ily was in the process of mov­ing to New­found­land and Labrador, and the step­fa­ther im­preg­nated the 12-year-old, and then took her to Planned Par­ent­hood seek­ing an abor­tion.

Ul­ti­mately, the child was re­ferred to Eastern Health, and an abor­tion was per­formed. Ka­vanagh said in her re­port that var­i­ous play­ers didn’t do enough to in­ter­vene.

“Age-ap­pro­pri­ate coun­selling ser­vices were not pro­vided nor of­fered; no screen­ing for po­ten­tial sex­ual abuse or po­ten­tial co­er­cion oc­curred,” the re­port says.

Ul­ti­mately, af­ter the fam­ily’s case was even­tu­ally re­ferred to the pro­vin­cial Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Se­niors and So­cial Devel­op­ment, the RNC was brought in.

Fam­ily moved

The fam­ily moved to an­other province, and the child re­ceived a sec­ond abor­tion. Even­tu­ally, the abuse was dis­cov­ered and the step­fa­ther was crim­i­nally con­victed and sen­tenced to 16 years in pri­son.

Ka­vanagh said that be­cause the lit­tle girl was brought into a part of the health -are sys­tem nor­mally used to deal­ing with adults, health-care pro­fes­sion­als weren’t re­ally able to re­spond ad­e­quately.

“Ques­tions were not asked, risk was not as­sessed, con­sents were not ap­pro­pri­ately ob­tained, child-cen­tred re­sponses were not pro­vided, in­ves­tiga­tive re­sponses were in­com­plete and doc­u­men­ta­tion de­fi­cien­cies ex­isted,” the re­port says. “Had ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures been taken when this child pre­sented to ter­mi­nate her preg­nancy, or when child pro­tec­tion con­cerns were re­ported, the abuse may po­ten­tially have been de­tected and stopped.”

More ed­u­ca­tion needed for

health-care work­ers Ka­vanagh said health-care work­ers need more ed­u­ca­tion on rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion when it comes to child abuse and con­sent. She called on Me­mo­rial Uni­ver­sity and an ar­ray of med­i­cal professional gov­er­nance bod­ies to ed­u­cate work­ers on re­port­ing re­quire­ments, the le­gal age of con­sent, and rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion.

“We didn’t see that there was any reach­ing out to the Janeway, and we didn’t see that there was any reach­ing out to Chil­dren Se­niors and So­cial Devel­op­ment,” she said.

“When we look at the gen­dered na­ture of sex­ual abuse and sex­ual of­fences, lit­tle girls are much more vul­ner­a­ble to that in that age group. So just know­ing some of that ba­sic in­for­ma­tion might have been enough of a warn­ing sign to say we need to call in some­one on this case.” Rec­om­men­da­tions ac­cepted Chil­dren Se­niors and So­cial Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Lisa Demp­ster said the gov­ern­ment ac­cepts all of the re­port’s rec­om­men­da­tions, and they’ve al­ready started to get to work on.

“My depart­ment is also com­mit­ted to work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with other de­part­ments and en­ti­ties to as­sist them to ad­dress their re­spec­tive rec­om­men­da­tions, where ap­pro­pri­ate. At the end of the day, we all share the same goal — namely the best in­ter­ests of chil­dren and youth in our province.”

Mal­lary Mc­grath, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor for Planned Par­en­tood, also is­sued a state­ment in re­sponse to the Telegram’s in­quiry.

“The goal of Planned Par­ent­hood — New­found­land and Labrador Sex­ual Health Cen­tre is to pro­vide safe and ac­ces­si­ble sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive health care,” she said. “If and when gaps in our ser­vices are iden­ti­fied, we strive to pro­vide the train­ing and knowl­edge nec­es­sary for our staff and vol­un­teers to en­sure proper client care. Ad­di­tion­ally, we are ded­i­cated to en­sur­ing that youth who rely on our ser­vices are cared for in a safe, in­clu­sive, and non-judg­men­tal en­vi­ron­ment.”

PHOTO BY JAMES MCLEOD

Child and youth Ad­vo­cate Jac­que­line Lake Ka­vanagh de­liv­ers a re­port last Wed­nes­day deal­ing with a case where the sys­tem failed a 12-year-old girl who was im­preg­nated by her step­fa­ther and then taken to get an abor­tion.

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