Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, has said her organisation was willing to assist police officers in assessing sexual offences against children.
Mahabir-Wyatt said police and parents were being misled in some sex cases, including the report that a five-year-old girl was molested by an elderly man at a daycare centre last month.
"If this report is true, both the mother and the police have been misled. A sexual offence against a child does not mean only rape as it is defined in the law involving penetration by a penis or other object into the vagina of a female child," she said.
The child's mother claimed she was told by investigators that there was no evidence to prove that her child was sexually assaulted, since the girl was not raped. The mother reported that the 70-year-old man touched her daughter's genitals.
In an email to the Express, Mahabir-Wyatt stated: "Even the old Offences Against the Person Act Chapter 11 Section 8 states that carnal knowledge of a girl under 14 is an offence, liable to a sentence of imprisonment for life or for any term of years."
She said a male fondling the genitals of a girl falls under the definition of carnal knowledge.
"Since the mother in the article cited also stated that the child had come home with a bruised anus, we do not know if this was caused by an attempt at inserting the penis into the child's anus, which even if unsuccessful would cause bruising, or if the insertion of a finger was used," Mahabir-Wyatt said.
Mahabir-Wyatt said many police officers and social workers were unable to keep up with the legislation referring to child sexual abuse.
"(They) are not aware that current research, best practice, and even legislation take sexual activities such as "fondling" where it is done in a sexual manner seriously. It can be traumatic for a child and emotionally scarring, even if the child does not have the vocabulary to describe the action clearly to a police officer (or a social worker) untrained in taking evidence from a traumatised child which is a specific skill requiring training," Mahabir-Wyatt stated.