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Mothers main child abusers

Thursday, June 4, 2015
Startling statistics show:
Students of the St Joseph TML School and St Joseph Government Primary School assist Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in cutting the ribbon to open officially the Children’s Authority Assessment Centre at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, yesterday. Also in photo, from left, are Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, chairman of the board of management of the Children’s Authority Stephanie Daly, SC, director of the authority Sharifa Ali-Abdullah and Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton De Coteau. PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER

Mothers are the main offenders in child abuse and neglect cases, according to the director at the Children’s Authority Sharifa Ali-Abdullah. 

Ali-Abdullah was speaking at the launch of the authority’s Assessment Centre at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, yesterday.

She said the information was determined by the calls received in the past two weeks.

“The most disturbing trend we have seen so far is that mothers appear to be the people responsible for abuse and neglect.

“When we look further, the picture gets worse with 61 per cent of mothers being identified as the person for neglect and physical abuse,” she added.

Ali-Abdullah said while the data was “disturbing, it is not surprising, giving our family structures and our cultural attitudes about raising children. It really cries out for support to our women.”

She added: “If we do not look for an holistic solution these women are going to be charged and what will happen to the children. The numbers are increasing by the hour.” 

She said within the first two weeks of the operation of the centre there have been “over 524 calls (on child abuse), 248 cases and we would have actioned (dealt with) 127 cases already.”

Ali-Abdullah said the problem was “very acute” and “more than half of the cases being determined are high-risk.”

The statistics show significantly more girls were being abused than boys. 

Among the areas with a high incidence of child abuse, she said, were Sangre Grande, Tunapuna/Piarco and Arima.

Ali-Abdullah said child neglect and physical abuse were major concerns. She indicated that such cases were higher than sexual abuse.

She said surveys indicated there was a link between the occurrence of child abuse and poverty levels. 

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who officially opened the centre, called on the authority to do further studies to get empirical data about the claim that mothers were the ones who were abusing children in the homes. 

“That may be qualitative data rather than quantitative data. Therefore you would want to drill down to get really empirical data to say that is correct,” she added.

She said under the existing circumstances the first person with whom a child would identify was the mother. “Consequently, if anything goes wrong, it is mother (to blame). That may not necessarily be the case in reality,” she noted.

Persad-Bissessar said she would be happy to see the detailed results of a more comprehensive assessment of the data.

She also said Cabinet yesterday agreed to the construction of an autism support centre in T&T. 


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