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Crime and social ills in our society
“It was horrible to hear their screams and cries for help for the past 17 months, we would often hear them screaming for their lives, they were often tied up and beaten with a hammer, cables etc, left without food,” a neighbour said after the children, aged between seven and ten, were taken away from their home in St Augustine by the police, members of the CPU (Child Protection Unit) and the Children’s Authority.
The good neighbours believe that they are now safe and thanks to them for reporting this heinous crime. But my God, according to the recent newspaper article, it took 17 months before a report was made of the ugly and horrific abuse, both physical and mental; the pain and suffering that these innocent children had to endure before being rescued. I ask why was it not reported much sooner? Seventeen months? We always speak about the ‘village raising the child’, ‘our neighbour’s keeper’, ‘looking out for one another’. Where were the school teachers? Were there not signs of abuse? Were the police called earlier? Why, why, why?
According to the newspaper report, two smaller children between one and three are still at the house pending further investigation. Why? The question is, are they not at serious risk of abuse? They too should have been removed at once by the authorities.
We have failed these children and others who have been abused, whether sexually, physically or mentally as they suffer deep, irreparable trauma in many ways. Whether a community, neighbour, friend, teacher or family member, we simply must ‘look out’ for them, recognise the abuse and save them before it is too late. Children are the most vulnerable victims of abuse, followed by the elderly, spouse etc. Too many innocent, beautiful children have senselessly died over the years as no one came to their aid in time.
The Children’s Act 2012 states that only parents/guardians are permitted to apply ‘reasonable’ corporal punishment…. Who determines ‘reasonable’, where is the line drawn when it is often a family member who is the abuser? Our social services, though well-intentioned have been lacking in resources, funding etc for too long. Like human/child trafficking, domestic/child abuse is rampant in our society and the government of the day must pay serious heed to this problem by attempting to eradicate these heinous crimes against the most vulnerable in our society, rich or poor, through education and awareness programmes. But be aware, traffickers and abusers look like you and me, they are any race, creed, gender, colour or class. Sometimes they are people that we know or recognise.
News like this is always gut-wrenching to us all. Which is worse, tearing apart 2300 children from their parents as their families seek a better life in a first world country or sexual/mental/physical abuse of a child?
Abuse is abuse however it unfolds itself.
In the 20 years that I have been advocating and working in an attempt to improve the lives and living conditions of marginalised children and women in our society, I have seen too many cases of abuse and social neglect. The NGOs, CBOs, FBOs and other organisations have certainly been making a significant contribution over the years towards changing these social ills with the support of civil and corporate society.
Where the government of the day could also make a difference is the granting of charitable status to registered and recognised NGOs, in order for them to secure corporate funding, for the overall benefit of the marginalised/needy in our society.
If anyone knows of or suspects that a child or someone else is being abused in any way, whether privileged or underprivileged, please, please tell someone soon, it may save a life.
Simone de la Bastide
President of The Children’s Ark
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