by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Child Abuse and Awareness Prevention Month theme “Time for Action: Stomp out Child Abuse”
- More forensic interviewers needed to support law enforcement and prosecutors
- La Mode, Boca, and Willis in St George are prone to high rates of sexual abuse and violence
As Grenada registers high numbers of cases of child sexual abuse, the Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child (GNCRC) continues to identify a number of gaps that hinder how these cases are effectively dealt with.
Last year one of those gaps identified was the need to establish a family court that would take into consideration sensitive cases involving victims of sexual abuse, especially those involving minors.
During this year’s observation of Child Abuse and Awareness Prevention Month, the GNCRC is advocating for more people to pursue forensic interview careers to provide law enforcement and prosecutors with critical evidence into a sexual abuse case without inducing unnecessary trauma to child victims.
Ann Greaves, Chair of the Child Protection Awareness and Prevention Month Committee, made the call following her visit to Panama where she represented the Grenada Association of Professional Social Workers at the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Latin America and the Caribbean Region Meeting and Conference. Held from 25-29 March, 15 countries from the 17-member countries of the IFSW were present.
A forensic interviewer plays an integral role in assisting law enforcement in their investigation into cases of child sexual abuse by allowing them to obtain information from a child that may be helpful in a criminal investigation, and assessing the need for medical treatment and psychological care.
“Certainly, if I was a lot younger, this will be the way that I will go. Getting qualified in forensic [interviewing] because I think that is so important in helping to detect the abuse and working with the individual collecting information and working with the parents and child victims,” Greaves said.
Last year attorney at law Jerry Edwin made a special plea for the adoption of model guidelines for sexual offence cases in Grenada’s court system after having the experience of interviewing a victim of sexual abuse. The GNCRC had agreed that the establishment of the family court is long overdue but stated that this must be backed by legislation.
The Canada-funded Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, provided Grenada’s judicial system with guidelines regarding dealing with sexual offence cases in court.
Some of these recommendations and procedures that must be followed include:
- The rights of all complainants and defendants will be protected and all service delivery will respect their rights and dignity.
- All court services should be provided in a non-judgmental way that facilitates the empowerment of complainants.
- Specialised training is an essential part of ensuring the best evidence is collected from complainants.
- Service delivery must not re-victimise the complainant or traumatise witnesses.
- Vulnerable complainants or witnesses will receive specialised support services.
- Service delivery will recognise that due to the traumatic and disruptive nature of sexual assaults, support services will be needed for complainants and this may require multi-disciplinary collaboration with other agencies.
- Confidentiality and privacy of complainants will be respected and protected.
According to 2018 statistics, 628 such cases were reported to the Child Protection Authority (CPA). This includes 203 cases in which children were victims of sexual abuse followed by 107 cases of children who were victims of physical abuse. Other related child matters include 102 cases of child abandoned or neglected.
On Monday, Greaves was among members of the GNCRC who addressed members of the media on the need for community involvement to stomp out this societal scourge. The GNCRC has pledged as part of activities to recognise Child Abuse and Awareness Prevention Month, to engage with individuals within various communities, especially reaching out to the youth on the blocks in the communities prone to high rates of sexual abuse and violence. These areas according to the Special Victims Unit are La Mode, Boca, and Willis in St George.
The theme chosen for this year is “Time for Action: Stomp out Child Abuse.” During the month of April the GNCRC will be facilitating presentations in schools throughout the island, conducting advocacy work by engaging churches and community groups. A key activity is a workshop with child care providers on child abuse intervention strategy scheduled for 24 April.
Janelle Grant Hamlet, CPA Public Relations Officer said this workshop is expected to be quite comprehensive. “We are going to be empowering child care workers to know the various forms of child abuse and the signs. We will be imparting knowledge of the legislation and their responsibility as child care providers. We will be providing guidelines on how to minimise the risk of child abuse and neglect in child care programmes, and we will also be identifying some dos and dont’s for before, during and after a disaster when it comes to caring for children.”