Time to intervene for our children
Every episode of violence is cause for deep concern. But none rattles our sense of order and safety as much as the violence that is inflicted on our children. Especially when that violence is of a sexual nature.
As a country, we need to take serious stock of the growing number of children who are coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse in which the perpetrators are so often the figures of trust and authority in their lives.
What does it say about us as a society that our children's innocence is considered easy prey for an adult, mainly male, predators? What level of insecurity and depravity leads a big man to force himself on a child or to brutalise a baby to death?
In a situation of escalating violence against our girls and boys, we should feel compelled to act.
The newly-launched Children's Authority may not yet have the benefit of full legislative powers but it does have the service of many caring and committed professionals with the stature to mount an intervention on our children's behalf. Our little ones cannot afford to wait for the bureaucracy to inch its lethargic way forward.
Without prejudice to the numerous cases now before the courts, we would like to suggest that the situation is one of intense urgency. Whether we are witnessing a case of greater reporting of incidents of abuse, or whether it is a case of an actual increase in numbers, the single most critical thing at this point is for us to close ranks around our children and for our children to feel the presence of our protection and support.
Our children need to know that there is someone, somewhere that they can turn to when failed by those around them. We applaud those parents — mainly mothers, teachers, neighbours and members of the public who care enough to do the right thing and report suspected cases of abuse. Far too often, however, children are failed by the very people they most trust and love. And when that happens, too often they don't know where to turn to.
Predators, on the other hand, benefit the most from an environment devoid of information. The less children know about what constitutes abuse, what their rights are and where they can find help, the more they can be terrorised and scared into compliance.
There are a large number of organisations through which civic-minded, caring citizens devote their energies and resources to helping children. The State also has an extensive apparatus for looking after abused children. Given the current spike in reports of child abuse, an urgent intervention is required from these agencies. Business as usual will not work. Our children and the wider society need to see tangible evidence that we recognise their plight as worrying enough to warrant an urgent response.
We cannot fail them by sleepwalking through their pain.