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Almost 10,000 Cases of Child Abuse in Jamaica Annually According to CPSFA

Joy Crawford
Joy Crawford, Co-founder and Director of Programs and Training at Eve for Life

Child Abuse Prevention Month is commemorated in the United States in April of every year. We acknowledge that this is only one of the many initiatives globally to increase awareness, examine legislations and state obligations, mobilize advocates, activists, and well-wishers, and equip children with skills to respond and report. It is necessary to acknowledge the important responsibility we have to protect and defend children everywhere.

In Jamaica, the Child Protection Family Services Agency (CPFSA) received 9,800 cases of abuse against children in 2020. Sexual abuse accounted for 20 percent of these reports, says Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief executive officer of the CPFSA. The children’s registry reports an average of 700-800 cases monthly for 2021. UNICEF reports that around 80 percent of children in Jamaica will experience some form of psychological or physical violence in the name of discipline and that 79 percent of children will witness violence in their communities or home.

While the statistics are alarming, it does not tell the whole story. Jamaicans exist in and carry on a culture of silence, family secrets, and diminished value of children’s words and worth. Many arguments claim that child abuse results from a failed household and family values. While I am sure this is a major contributor, I would like to put forward one or two others.

Where are the true child protectors?

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After over thirty-five years of supporting many aspects of child protection machinery, I find myself contemplating, where are the true child protectors? Are they in spaces that decide not to make the sex offender registry public or even to have a public discourse on the matter? Are they in the educational institutions that continue to disguise child abuse as rules and regulations? Are they in the churches that treat child abuse as ‘not sparing the rod’ or sexual abuse as ‘weakness of the flesh’? Are they in families and communities that value the status quo and/or fear of embarrassment over the lifelong damage being done to our children?

The schools, the churches, the football field, and the playground are all social institutions and spaces that have a serious impact on the development of children. They are also the spaces where children are exposed to significant danger and are abused. But are we paying enough attention to what happens in these spaces and the people who have this kind of access to our children? We know childcare and protection should be everyone’s responsibility, but Jamaica has failed desperately in this regard as a country. Who are the community members, government and religious leaders, teachers, and elders prioritizing childcare in Jamaica? Where are they when children line the streets every day, wiping windshields or selling snacks instead of attending school? Where is the social support for single parents who need social support in rearing and providing for their children?

Child protection starts with our communities

The truth is that Jamaica cannot make any progress in attacking abuse and strengthening laws around child protection when we pay no attention to some of the major everyday issues surrounding our children. We have developed the unfortunate attitude of leaving children to face the horrors of the world by themselves. Too many of us are comfortable turning a blind eye to children not being cared for or supported. Child protection cannot and will not start at the governmental level. It has to start with our communities and people having a genuine interest in caring for and defending the children around us. It is on every Jamaican, especially those who are close to children, to look into ourselves and ask the question: “am I a protector of children?”

All children need protection, some more than others.  Will the true child protectors, please stand!

Joy Crawford is the Co-founder and Director of Programs and Training at Eve for Life, a non-governmental organization that supports women and children living with HIV and AIDS.   She is a Registered General Nurse by training.

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