The Child Abuse Prevention Unit last week Friday ended a four-week Child Abuse and Neglect Workshop in the Kalinago Territory, Atkinson and Antrizzle.
Jemma Azille-Lewis, Coordinator of the Child Abuse Prevention Unit gave a comprehensive overview of the purpose of the workshop and its impact on these communities during the month of February.
“The main objective of the workshop was to target child abuse and neglect within the Kalinago Territory and Atkinson. It was also to provide educational advocacy and awareness that child abuse and neglect is prevalent within the Kalinago Territory, however it can be alleviated; to educate and empower parents, Child Protection Officers, community leaders who work with children on all aspects of child abuse and neglect including the mandated steps needed to be taken when child abuse and neglect is witnessed or suspected.”
Various types of abuse including physical, emotional, sexual and child neglect were explored in detail during the four sessions. Fifty-seven active participants were also taught how to detect signs of abuse in children.
The main concern for Azille-Lewis and the Child Abuse Prevention Unit is the silence concerning abusive situations in the communities.
The ‘Break the Silence’ Campaign was launched in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010 to encourage Caribbean communities to speak out against child abuse.
Azille-Lewis stated, “This campaign is an approach to protect children against sexual abuse and the risk of contracting an STI or an STD and it aims to reach victims and families with a message to speak out against and denounce violence against children, sexual abuse and the shame and stigma that surrounds the issue and what are the first steps to seeking help.”
However, Ashton Graneau, Hon. Parliamentary Representative for the Kalinago Territory believes it’s not so much breaking the silence as it is using the law to take action against the perpetrators of abuse.
The Minister expressed deep concern for the situation of child abuse and illegal adoption in the Territory. He made it clear that the situation is not unique to his constituency but is a national concern.
The Prime Minister who was also present at the closing ceremony stated that while Government is doing its part in ensuring that the laws and legislation are there to protect children from abuse, the responsibility to ensure that Dominica’s children are safe, lies in the hands of persons in the communities.
“In Dominica we have some of the strongest laws relating to sexual abuse cases. The challenge this system has is that in many instances when it is reported, people do not want to speak to the Police and you cannot go to the Court of Law if you do not have witnesses who are prepared to give evidence before the court to say to the court that which they have seen and that which they have heard. In an effort to assist with the process of protecting our children, the Government constructed the place of safety called Chances in Jimmit to provide a safe environment for those who have been abused or neglected. It is costing us in excess of eighty thousand dollars a month to run this facility and of course we have other facilities in the country that assists with that level of protection to our children.”
Prime Minister Skerrit gave his personal commitment and that of his Cabinet to assist in the efforts of combating child abuse and neglect in Dominica.
As a result of this workshop a Child Abuse Prevention Committee was formed in the Kalinago Territory to pay closer attention to combating child abuse in the area.