SEX­UAL PREDA­TORS CON­TINUE TO PREY ON UN­DER­AGE YOUTH

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ryon Jones Staff Reporter ryon.jones@glean­erjm.com

UN­DER­AGE YOUTH in Ja­maica con­tinue to be the main tar­gets of sex­ual preda­tors, ac­cord­ing to data ob­tained from the Of­fice of the Chil­dren’s Registry (OCR). Be­tween 2007 and 2014, the OCR re­ceived 16,790 re­ports about chil­dren who were known, or sus­pected to have been, vic­tims of sex­ual abuse.

Over the eight-year pe­riod, ap­prox­i­mately two-thirds (10,989) of al­leged vic­tims of child sex­ual abuse were aged 13-17 years; 21.1 per cent (3,545) were aged 7-12 years; and 8.4 per cent (1,406) were un­der seven years; while the ages of 5.1 per cent (850) were un­known.

For the pe­riod, Kingston and St Andrew ac­counted for the ma­jor­ity of the re­ported cases of sex­ual abuse, with 5,301 – more than two times that of St Cather­ine, with 2,138, and St Ann (1,583).

When the data was dis­ag­gre­gated by sex, there was a notable dis­par­ity, with nine in ev­ery 10 chil­dren (93 per cent) re­ported to the OCR be­tween 2007 and 2014 who were or at risk of be­ing sex­u­ally abused be­ing girls; 6.7 per cent were boys, and the sex of 0.3 per cent was not pro­vided.

“Our young men, and more so our adult men, tar­get these young girls for more than one rea­son,” Su­per­in­ten­dent of Po­lice Enid Ross-Ste­wart, head of the Cen­tre for In­ves­ti­ga­tion of Sex­ual Of­fences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), told The Sun­day Gleaner.

She ex­plained that old myths such as the be­lief that hav­ing sex with young girls can cure sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases, as well as some per­verted men want­ing to live out fan­tasies were some of the rea­sons for ado­les­cent girls be­ing tar­geted.

SOME GIRLS SEEK OUT OLDER MEN

On the other hand, the su­per­in­ten­dent also pointed out that some young girls ac­tu­ally seek out sex­ual in­ter­ac­tion with older men.

“With some of these girls, their hormones are rag­ing very early, and be­cause of what they see on the In­ter­net and on TV, they are ex­posed, so they go af­ter it too,” Ross-Ste­wart pointed out, while warn­ing, “but even if these girls or boys come af­ter them (adults), they need to re­sist it, as they are the adults and should know bet­ter.”

Regis­trar for the OCR, Greg Smith, be­lieves girls are most vul­ner­a­ble be­tween ages 13 and 17, which he said is fur­ther high­lighted by the fact that this co­hort also ac­counts for the ma­jor­ity of the miss­ing-per­son re­ports.

“From anec­do­tal in­for­ma­tion from dis­cus­sions with some of these chil­dren, when you look at the 13-17 band of girls who go miss­ing, the ma­jor­ity are be­cause of the ex­plo­ration of sex­ual ac­tiv­ity,” Smith said. “They would have had their so­called ‘boyfriends’ and so some of them would have gone off for a few hours, a few days or even a week­end and then en­gage in these ac­tiv­i­ties.”

As it re­lates to the in­crease in num­ber of re­ported cases, head of the Child De­vel­op­ment Agency, Ros­alee Gage-Grey, be­lieves that some of these ado­les­cents might have been ex­posed to sex­ual abuse ear­lier, but with greater ex­po­sure and courage are fi­nally able to speak out.

“We don’t have any em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence or data, and I think it is per­haps some­thing that we need to ex­plore fur­ther, but what we do recog­nise even from as­sess­ment and in­ter­views with the chil­dren is that some of them would have been abused from ear­lier and prob­a­bly now got the courage to re­port,” Gage-Grey.

COL­LEC­TIVE EF­FORT NEEDED

Hear the Chil­dren’s Cry founder, Betty Ann Blaine, shared that per­sons are fail­ing to make the dis­tinc­tion be­tween chil­dren and adults and, there­fore, ado­les­cent girls need more pro­tec­tion.

“Teenage girls need spe­cial pro­tec­tion as they come into pu­berty and as they ma­ture phys­i­o­log­i­cally. For them to be pro­tected re­quires a col­lec­tive ef­fort be­tween the State, Gov­ern­ment and broader so­ci­ety and, of course, what’s hap­pen­ing at school,” Blaine said.

“They are not get­ting the pro­tec­tion of­ten­times in the homes be­cause many of the per­pe­tra­tors are in fact fam­ily mem­bers, so they are be­com­ing at­trac­tive not only to peo­ple on the out­side of their homes, but they be­come phys­i­cally at­trac­tive to peo­ple who are their own fam­ily mem­bers. And so, the liv­ing con­di­tions of a lot of these teenage girls are a prob­lem.”

Chil­dren’s Advocate Di­a­hann Gor­don Har­ri­son is also call­ing for more em­pha­sis to be placed on iden­ti­fy­ing men who im­preg­nate un­der­age girls so that they can be brought to jus­tice, as the young moth­ers of­ten try to pro­tect the iden­tity of the fathers.

“It is al­most rou­tine where you will have a whole num­ber of chil­dren who ex­ist and who have birth cer­tifi­cates and there is no fa­ther’s name on the birth cer­tifi­cates,” Gor­don Har­ri­son high­lighted.

“At the hos­pi­tal level, we have to have per­sons dis­close manda­to­rily who the fa­ther of the chil­dren are and tie that some­how with some con­se­quence. It clearly can’t be crim­i­nal con­se­quence, but cer­tainly, there has to be some kind of in­ter­ven­tion at the hos­pi­tals.”

GOR­DON HAR­RI­SON GAGE-GREY

SMITH

ROSS-STE­WART

BLAINE

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