Child abuse reports have seen a decrease with the closure of schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but this is only because teachers are the ones that most often spot and report abuse, Ann Greene, the Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA), has said.
“The whole child protection system is not fully in operation because the teachers are the front runners for spotting abuse and most of our reports come through the school system and school is out,” the Director explained.
Data compiled by the Agency shows there were 1250 reports of child abuse from January to May this year. Child neglect recorded the highest number with 559 cases. There were 315 reports of child sexual abuse. The Director said with data compared for the same period in 2019, there is a decrease.
She clarified that there is a decrease in reporting child abuse and not a decrease in child abuse. The Director further said that even under normal circumstances the figures does not show the true extent of how many children are being abused. And now with the COVID-19 pandemic there are even more cases that are going unreported and the children are now more vulnerable.
“A lot of children are being abused but there is no way to report it,” the Director stated.
The abused children most times do not have a voice to report what is happening to them because the perpetrator is usually a relative or family friend.
The CPA is now encouraging community members to pick up the phone and report any child or children being abused during this time.
“If you see something ain’t look right for a child next door we are asking you to call the hotline – 227 0979 – because if it ain’t look right, it probably is not right,” the Director said.
Meanwhile, there have been a lot more prosecution and severe sentencing for child sexual abuse perpetrators lately.
“We have been getting a lot of prosecutions, particularly through the Sexual Offences Court and things are moving much faster.
“But there are still some challenges with the whole investigation process. I personally would like it to move a little faster,” the Director said.
The Director further said that citizens can be part of the solution for children when they report on child abuse.
The Director had previously told the News Room that they have had to provide families with groceries as well as psychological assistance during the country’s fight against COVID-19.
The Rights of the Child Commission last week reiterated its commitment to enlivening the articles enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and said it continues to carry out its mandate to oversee and encourage observance of all rights of children in Guyana.
Last year there were a total of 3,752 reported child abuse cases, with 1,729 of those cases being child neglect and 890 being cases of sexual abuse.