The children of this nation are under attack by sexual predators who need to be jailed, says Margaret Sampson-Browne, head of the Police Victim and Witness Support Unit.
Speaking to the Express yesterday, Sampson-Browne said the unit, which comprises 19 officers, had been aggressively campaigning both in Trinidad and Tobago and urging children and adults to come to the police if they were victims of sexual offences.
"Children do not come to the station and make reports, they have to stay and subject themselves to the whims and fancies and sick demands of these adults that are supposed to love them," she said.
Sampson-Browne said it was not sufficient for parents to abdicate responsibility when "your child is psychologically dying at the hands of a father, brother, aunt or cousin".
"We need to start seeing some parents, some men, women going to jail, you cannot sit down and do nothing when it comes to abuse," she added.
Sampson-Browne urged victims to call the support unit at 628-4277 extension 12635 and give any information with respect to abuse.
"We will support you through your crisis."
She also disclosed that the unit would be making an intervention in a community in north Trinidad, where incest "is a way of life".
Sampson-Browne added that all support systems must be working to help victims after they were removed from the place of abuse.
Social worker Gregory Sloane-Seale, member of the Children's Authority, told the Express that the increase in reported figures might not actually reflect an increase in the number of incidents.
He noted there were many children being abused in Trinidad and Tobago whose cases were not reported.
Sloane-Seale called on people who interface with children, such as doctors, nurses, teachers and religious bodies, to ensure there was greater sensitisation on what to look for and how to support victims.
The Children's Authority, he said, was in the process of hiring key managerial staff in order to roll out its services.
Sloane-Seale said that victims of sexual abuse as a child continue this pattern in their adulthood and they in turn abuse children, thereby creating a cycle.
Secretary of the Psychiatric Association Dr Varma Deyalsingh told the Express that sexual molestations against children are committed by close relatives and friends.
Deyalsingh noted a study done by Dr Daphne Phillips, looking at the issue of violence in schools, where it was found that 40 per cent of students said they were sexually molested.
Why do people rape children?
Deyalsingh said there were a host of factors, the most common being that abusers themselves were molested as children.
He said children were also seen as an easy target as they could be overpowered and would not fight back.
He added that in Jamaica there was a trend where children were raped in what was known as "virgin cleansing"—where the perpetrators believed this act would cure them of diseases such as syphillis and HIV.
Alcohol being abused in homes, he added, fuels attacks against children.
Paedophiles, said Deyalsingh, are different as their psychiatric disorder prevents control and the abuse becomes an addiction.
"It is worrisome in the sense that there are a lot of rapes that are not reported...we don't know the extent of it."
Deyalsingh said many victims suffer from psychological disorders.
"Our clinics are packed with people who were raped in their childhood and it manifests as panic attacks, anxiety disorders, depression, sexual problems, some of them commit suicide and self-mutilate," he said.