Child abuse, not a recent problem

2000. That’s not a date in history. That’s how many children have been abused every year for the last four years in Jamaica.

1 in 4. The number of girls who will be sexually abused before the age of 18. (Global statistic)

1 in 6. The number of boys.

2 out of 100. The number of Jamaican children who are reported as victims of sexual abuse (according to Professor Samms-Vaughan on April 30, 2012).

No, child abuse is not a recent problem. But with 50th anniversary celebrations looming, people are taking a more critical look at what we have achieved over the last half century of holding our own. How far have we come? And are we doing it right?

In her speech at the launch of Child’s Month 2012, Professor Samms-Vaughan mentions that we are the only country (except for Vietnam) who observes a month for children. This pales in significance to the depressingly morbid statistics she goes on to relate. Children in Jamaica are exposed to violence and abuse of all kinds from an early age, in their homes, in their communities and at school. It’s almost inescapable. What is being done to change that?

It’s reported that teen pregnancy is on the decline, which could be attributed to anything from under-reporting to teens finding cleverer means to avoid getting pregnant. It does not necessarily mean they are any less at risk.

In this article in the Gleaner’s Sunday Outlook, Dr. Little-White begins with,

Sexual molestation in the church is an age-old problem and no one likes to talk about the ongoing sexual abuse of children.

Her article centres around the story of a girl who was sexually molested by a leader of the church, and it serves to highlight 4 main points about the way Jamaicans deal with and perceive sexual abuse.

1. We don’t always know what it is

Persons with the most responsibility for children (parents, school authorities etc.) don’t know enough about the form of child abuse, the profile of abusers or how the abuse can affect the child. There have been cases of mothers saying ‘Well I went through the same thing and I’m all right, so she’s going to be all right too.’

2. Children are not taught how to identify these situations and what to do if they happen.

The majority of sexual molestation cases begin with some variation of ‘I didn’t know what he was doing’. This only makes it easier for the perpetrator to get away with their actions, and makes it less likely for the child to be able to adequately explain to the parent what’s going on.

3. We are too quick to dismiss claims.

This is a running motif in child abuse stories and re-enactments. Too often, the person with primary responsibility for the child ignores and brushes off their claims. At the worst, they don’t believe them and tell them to stop making up stories.

4. We are quick to dispense our own brand of vigilante justice.

We are a hot-tempered people. It’s understandable, given our history of rebellions and activism. But the law cannot be left out in these cases. If a man abuses a child in one community, is found out and subsequently beaten half to death by the members of that community, what is to stop him from moving on to another community to do the same thing all over again?


Education, on both sides. Respect. More faith in our justice system. Better parenting. More attention to detail. You can mix and match these answers, but they are all relevant and they are all necessary.

We have done a lot for our children over the last fifty years, says Professor Samms-Vaughan.

But we need we need to do so much more.

Sources: Gleaner Outlook Article. Professor Samms-Vaughan’s address

4 thoughts on “Child abuse, not a recent problem

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts..

    In my time at primary and high school during the 1970s & 1980s this kind of abuse was a regular habit and very public (esp by male teachers). But we at the time were naive about the issue to make a public stand when we saw it going on.

    Especially against those men in senior positions (education, police, church, sports etc) that should have known better but abused their “respectable” position in society.. It’s good to see that the fight against child abuse is very prominent in today’s Jamaica.

    Having lived over 20 years in the UK child abuse is the one crime that every citizen take very seriously.

    Do you think also that those who are now adults should speak out against the individuals that had abused them in their younger days? The lapse in time can make the abuse case hard to prove in the courts years down the line.

    Wark good.


    1. I advocate speaking out, but I’m aware that the justice system may not be able to do much in the way of restitution. However, the public needs to know about these individuals and the victims themselves can use the catharsis, even if it comes 20 years later.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. :)


  2. Hello. I am at the Catholic College of Mandeville and want to use your photo of the boys , which I found on Bing nd which you have on this page at item .4 that speaks to vigilante justice. We have an upcoming Early Childhood Conference in November 2019 and would like to use this photo in our flyers that promote the conference and the theme of ‘Right Start: Bright Future”

    Thank you kindly for a response

    Just a little background on me, I am the Coordinator for the Master’s programme offered jointly with the Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and a member of the planning committee for the Early Childhood Conference. Looking forward to a quick reply


    1. Hi Joan, the picture isn’t mine. I also found it by doing an internet search. I’m not sure if it is copyrighted though so I’d recommend you finding the original photographer if you intend to use it for profit purposes.


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