In this edition of “Let’s Talk About It”, the topic is “CHILD ABUSE” and safeguarding our children post Hurricane Maria.
Maria has had a tremendous impact on friendships, relationships and families. Whole families have been relocated to new communities and even to new countries. The trauma of the storm is exacerbated by the involuntary breaking up of what once were close knit family structures. In some instances, it became necessary to place children in the care of strangers or relatives they barely knew. Notwithstanding the need for such arrangements, parents should be vigilant of the potential dangers for children in new homes, families and communities. One of the most worrying threats is as it relates to child abuse whether physical, emotional, sexual or neglect.
CHILD ABUSE is the maltreatment of a child by his/her parent or caregiver that can result in injury, emotional harm and in extreme cases, death of the child. Child abuse can be Physical, Emotional or Sexual. Neglect is also a form of child abuse. By learning about the common signs of abuse and how you can assist through anonymous reporting, you can save a child’s life.
PHYSICAL ABUSE involves severe beatings, shaking, burning, biting, strangling.
Warning Signs: Bruises, fractures, scars, burns, internal injuries, fear of being touched
EMOTIONAL ABUSE (Non physical contact) includes excessive criticism, threats, intimidation, rejection, exposing the child to violence or the abuse of others.
Warning Signs: Low self esteem, withdrawal, shame, guilt, stress, fear, feelings of being worthless, detachment from parent/caregiver
SEXUAL ABUSE happens when an adult or older person engages a child in sexual activities. No child under sixteen can consent to sexual activity. Their “yes” means “NO”. People who have sex with children are guilty of rape and will receive a custodial sentence. Sexual abuse includes:
• Physical contact with the child’s genitals (even through clothes)
• Indecent exposure of one’s genitals to a child
• Exposing a child to sexual material
• Taking photographs or video of children for the purpose of sexually entertaining adults is called voyeurism and is a crime
• Preparing children for sexual activity by meeting, bribing and engaging them on social media is called grooming and is illegal.
Warning Signs: Difficulty walking or sitting, sexually transmitted diseases, having unusual amounts of cash, expensive gifts, unwanted pregnancy, injury, changes in school performance, promiscuous behavior.
NEGLECT is a pattern of denying a child healthcare, education, nutrition, safe living conditions, love, support and supervision.
Warning Signs: Drug abuse, changes in school performance/attendance, bad hygiene, untreated illness, emaciation, failure to thrive, teeth decay, missing vaccinations, begging for food, absence of footwear and being on the streets unattended at night.
WHY REPORT IT?
While many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ affairs, child abuse is NOT merely a family matter; the consequences of turning a blind eye to it can be damaging to the child years into adulthood. Reporting cases of abuse is important to help victims and stop the damage caused by child abuse situations.
Not reporting when you know that a child is being abused is illegal. The sexual amendment legislation in 2016 made it mandatory that you must make a report to the authority if a child tells you they are being abused. You cannot stay quiet.
HOW TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE (AND STAY ANONYMOUS)
Do you have information about a child abuse situation but are worried about being identified if you speak out? Crime Stoppers Dominica (CSD) makes it easier for you to break the silence around the mistreatment of children without your identity being known.
CONTACTING CRIME STOPPERS DOMINICA:
To report cases of child abuse anonymously, call Crime Stoppers Dominica at 1800 8477 (TIPS) toll free or submit a tip online at crimestoppersdominica.org. The call centre is located outside of Dominica and agents are available 24/7 to take reports.
The agents are only interested in the information you give, so you will not be asked to say your name. Your information will be dealt with sensitively, and then put into a report. The report is then transmitted to law enforcement who takes appropriate action.
Remember: Know the three “W’s”: WHERE your kids are, WHAT they are doing, and WHO they are with.
CRIME STOPPERS DOMINICA provides a confidential crime reporting service that gives everyone the opportunity to report about any type of crime such as child abuse by calling 1800 8477 (TIPS) or by submitting a tip online at crimestoppersdominica.org.