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'Take scientific approach to tackling child abuse'

By Jensen LaVende jensen.lavende@trinidadexpress.com

ACTIVIST group Break the Silence has disclosed that, from its studies, child sexual abuse is prevalent in all communities throughout Trinidad and Tobago and it wants Government agencies to take a scientific approach to dealing with it.

During a media briefing at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, on Friday, Prof Rhoda Reddock, lead researcher at Break the Silence, said after close to five years of research, studies and outreach programmes, it is hoping the data is adopted on a governmental level to ensure its sustainability.

"The fact that we have well-meaning NGOs (non-governmental organisations) cannot take the responsibility away from the State to take care of the most vulnerable in society. The State can assure sustainability and up-to-date policies and strategies. The State can ensure that the professionals who are hired are properly paid," said Reddock, when asked why it wanted the State to take over.

Reddock said the group went into three communities in the country to educate the communities, with the aim to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse.

The UWI lecturer said they have established some support systems in those communities to deal with those who have been abused and have been approached to help more people in other communities.

Reddock said they received a significant sum from UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) and the United Nations Trust Fund to end violence against women and have received additional funding from the State.

She shied away from disclosing the amount received, saying it would not be ethical to do so.

Reddock said at present there are no statistics on child sexual abuse available, saying all that is available is the number of reports.

She acknowledged police have indicated there has been an increase in the number of reports of sexual abuse within the last year.

Reddock said people are afraid to come forward for various reasons—one of them being guilt, as in many cases the abuser is a loved one of the victim.

Reddock said apart from that, the social services are inadequate for what the society needs and they should be moved forward.

"The social services need to be improved and the State should focus its attention, financially specifically, in dealing with the social ills in the country," she said, adding that some of the country's issues regarding violence have roots in sexually abused children and if that is adequately dealt with at the time, then the repercussions felt by society would be lesser.

She said one way in dealing with that is through education.

"Sex education should be a human right... it is important for your survival and health," she said.

Project coordinator of Break the Silence Tisha Nickening and media and branding officer for the group Kathryn Chan called on the public to adopt the Blue Teddy symbol, as the work done by them has gone regional and international and they are hoping it would reach the level of the red ribbon worn in commemoration of World Aids Day.

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