(Originally published in Guyana’s Kaieteur News on 30 January 2011)
This week we found out about four children who were said to have been sexually molested by “trusted” adults. The good news is that all of the alleged perpetrators have been stopped and will now face justice. However, one cannot help but wonder how many more situations such as these exist and whether there is anything else society can do to protect children.
Here are excerpts from the Kaieteur News reports on the alleged sexual assaults (all are from the January 28 edition):
“Ronald Forde, a 25-year-old teacher of the Fort Wellington Secondary School on the West Coast of Berbice, was charged…with having carnal knowledge of one of his students, aged 14, fully knowing that she was under the age of 18.”
“The 33-year-old teacher, who bit a first form schoolboy of Saraswat Primary School on the pretext that he was inflicting love bites, was released on station bail from the Leonora Police Station.
Since the incident that occurred on [last] Sunday, the child was removed from the home that he occupied alone with help from two female neighbours and installed at an institution in the city.
Vigilant teachers, on noticing the marks on the child, called in the police who learnt of the sexual assault on the child. They arrested the teacher.”
“A 42 year-old man from Parika has been remanded after being charged with incest of an 11-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. The accused made an appearance…at the Vreed-en-Hoop Magistrate’s Court before Magistrate Nyasha Williams-Hatmin. It is alleged that during December last year the man repeatedly sodomized the lad, and repeatedly had sexual intercourse with the girl. The court was told that the matter was brought to the attention of the police by neighbours.”
In May of last year Guyana passed the Sexual Offences Act of 2010. This Act was a comprehensive measure taken to protect against sexual predators and will certainly help to put prosecute the perpetrators from the media reports this past week.
I have mentioned before that I volunteered briefly with a rape crisis centre in my area and although every case was heart wrenching, the cases with children were particularly disturbing. My job was to be the victim’s advocate. I would be with the victim at the hospital, ask vital information that could be used to prosecute the perpetrator, make sure the victim sought counselling and offer a shoulder on which to cry should it be needed.
Of course, as a volunteer, I was trained to view each case clinically and I did just that – until I left the hospital. The reason my volunteering stint was so brief is that I simply could not deal with that feeling in the pit of my stomach on my drive home – especially when the victim was a child. Therefore, I left that job for others who were better suited.
Still, when I hear of stories about children being sexually assaulted, I remember the eyes of those children who I worked with personally. I remember the fear and mistrust. The sad fact is that many children who are sexually violated are victims at the hands of someone they trusted.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in the 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement report, “Ninety-three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker, 34.2 percent of attackers were family members, 58.7 percent were acquaintances and only seven percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.”
I would theorise that the numbers in Guyana would be very similar. The incidents from this past week would certainly point in that direction.
Victims of sexual assault face a very trying time as they attempt to heal from their traumatizing assaults and there are long-term effects on survivors of childhood sexual assault and/or abuse.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network in the U.S., survivors of sexual assault may experience severe feelings of anxiety, stress or fear, known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as a direct result of the assault.
Victims of rape or sexual assault may turn also to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to relieve their emotional suffering. Or they could inflict deliberate self-harm or self-injury. Victims could subconsciously develop Stockholm Syndrome, which is described as a victim’s involuntary emotional “bonding” with their abuser.
There are many emotional and psychological reactions that victims of rape and sexual assault can experience. One of the most common of these is depression and some even consider suicide. Many survivors of sexual assault suffer from sleep disturbances and disorders. Victims and survivors with eating disorders often use food and the control of food as an attempt to deal with or compensate for negative feelings and emotions.
Victims may also experience body memories, which is when the stress of the memories of the abuse experienced by an individual take the form of physical problems that cannot be explained by the usual means. There is also the chance of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and pregnancy.
According to the World Health Oraganization (2002), victims of sexual assault are: three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs and four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
These are some startling statistics and each one of them a good reason to find ways to better protect our children. Since 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker – it stands to reason that we need to protect them even from relatives and friends.
No one likes the idea that their neighbour or cousin could be a paedophile, but it is far better to be safe with our children than sorry.