A report released by ChildLink Guyana found that there has been an increase in the reporting of child abuse from 2014 to 2017.
ChildLink Guyana is a Non-governmental Organisation that works towards the protection of children against abuse and exploitation.
The report, titled, ‘Cries in the Dark – Child Sexual Abuse in Guyana Today,’ revealed that “child sexual abuse reports continue to increase which may mean that more child victims are being enabled and empowered to recount what has happened to them.”
In 2014, 628 child sexual abuse cases were reported to the Childcare and Protection Agency (CC&PA), while in 2017 841 reports were recorded.
The harms of child sexual abuse induce emotional and physical stress to victims. This, in turn, affects their growth and development as a young adult.
The information obtained for this report was from forensic interviews with victims of child sexual abuse.
The analysis and report were conducted by Dr. Lisa Fontes, a US-based psychologist. The victims received counselling at a Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) operated by ChildLinK.
A total of 338 sexual abuse cases were looked at between February 2014 and December 2017.
According to the report, 88 victims reported when they first suffered abuse at the age of 10 or younger, while 206 said they first suffered abuse at the age of 13 or younger.
Some of the abuses during childhood include intentional sexual touching, physically forced rape, sexual contact, statutory rape by an adult or peer, or sibling sexual abuse. The report also revealed that some of the victims received non-contact abuse, such as taking sexualized pictures.
In other words, although a 14-18-year-old may be physically mature, she is considered a child according to the United Nations definition and in need of protection from sexual pressures by adults and older adolescents.
Guyanese families commonly live in extended family situations. The report stated that the abuse most times happened where the victims lived with a number of family members.
“Some lived in small and some in large households, with parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, stepparents, and others.”
The report stated over 87% of the victims lived with at least one parent when the abuse began and 88% of the victims were female.
“Children were abused during all times of day and night—whenever the abuser had private and uninterrupted access to the child, even for brief periods, such as when the child’s mother stepped out to run an errand.”
Community members and family friends make up the largest group of perpetrators with a recorded 42%. The second largest group with a recorded 40% was male family members.
The perpetrators took away what should have been the victim’s birthright, the right to peace and doing childhood activities.
Some of the victims said they would have finished school, continued living with their families, been happy, had friends, and would have been able to make something of their lives.
“A number of teens expressed their sadness at not being able to finish school and write the CSEC, which they felt would interfere with their ability to get a job for the rest of their lives,” the report stated.
“Around 100,000 children and adults living in Guyana today have been victims of childhood sexual abuse. Phrased differently, of the approximately 260,000 children under 15 living in Guyana today, we can expect 33,000 of them to be sexually victimized before they become adults, unless something changes,” the report stated.
ChildLink will be using the results from this report to further understand the dynamics and harms with sexual child abuse in Guyana and aims to provide greater safety for children and teens.
However, “it’s still fragile and must be constantly nourished by research and services that respond with empathy and an open heart to the stories of children and adults who have been victims,” the report stated.
The Sexual Offences Legislation of 2010 and subsequently the Sexual Offences Court in 2017 will all be contributing to strengthening and improving the policies and systems to help children who have been sexually abused.
For 2019 there have already been 400 cases of abuse reported. This is according to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) at the launch of the Forensic Psychology and Sexual Offences Special Training Series, is a partnership between the University of Guyana, UNICEF and the Judiciary.