SEXUAL abuse against children is heightened during the July/August vacation and parents need to exercise extreme caution when leaving their children alone or with others.
As a result, the Children's Authority is asking parents to be more vigilant during the school vacation.
On Tuesday, Cheryl Moses-Williams, the authority's public education and communications manager, said the figures showed that “the problem was even more horrific than we anticipated".
The three highest types of abuse reported were sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.
In a statement issued to the media, Moses-Williams said: “The Children's Authority of Trinidad and Tobago is calling on parents and guardians to make the school holiday period a safe one for their children. The authority notes that there is a higher incidence of abuse of children, particularly sexual abuse, during vacation periods, as children may be left unsupervised for longer periods of time, giving perpetrators more access and opportunity. Research has shown that children whose parents talk to them about abuse are better equipped to protect themselves, since they can identify risky situations."
She added: “The authority has been pleased with the response from the public, with a significant number of reports coming from concerned citizens, including neighbours. The public is reminded that preventing child abuse is everyone's responsibility."
Moses-Williams said a sensitisation programme for parents and guardians will be conducted in communities over the next few weeks and the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development will also be running parenting workshops and vacation camps across the country. The authority is encouraging all parents and guardians to be a part of those activities.
Moses-Williams also gave some advice.
“If unable to supervise children, leave them in the care of a responsible and trusted adult and check in regularly on how your child is doing. Encourage your children to inform you or a trusted responsible adult if someone is touching them inappropriately. Limit the danger of Internet and social media by setting basic guidelines, such as when children go online, what sites they can visit, and regular check-ins to see and discuss the choices that are being made with technology," she said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development will be running parenting workshops and vacation camps across the country. The Children's Authority is encouraging parents and guardians to register for the activities being organised by its line ministry.
Yesterday, the ministry announced its vacation camp schedules catering for two age groups.
The groups were labelled “Footprints” and “Vybes”.
The “Footprints” camp will take place from July 13 to August 7 and caters to those five to 11.
The “Vybes” camp will take place from July 20-31 and children ages 12 to 17 can participate.
Forms are available at the ministry's website or from district youth offices.
A maximum of 60 children will be registered for each camp.