May 12, 2021

Cayman Islands Red Cross: Setting the standard

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TheSeal-905x1024The Seal From Cayman Parent

“Child sexual abuse does happen here: it is not a new occurrence, it is not imported, and perpetrators come from all walks of life, backgrounds, nationalities and social status. We are not immune.”

It likely comes as a surprise to most people in Cayman- locals, long term residents and new arrivals alike-that there are no national standards for youth serving organisations in our islands. What exactly does this mean? To put it simply: there is no overarching legislation or policy that requires those who are providing services for youth- be it summer camps, music lessons, athletic development,etc- to properly vet potential employees and volunteers, train personnel, or adhere to best practices aimed at ensuring safe environments for children and young people.

“Our status as a “safe jurisdiction”- a marketing highlight for our tourism product- has somehow been equated with a sense of immunity against all manner of social ills,” explains Deputy Director of the Cayman Islands Red Cross, Carolina Ferreira. “We are made to believe that certain things, such as child sexual abuse, don’t happen here and that is simply not true. Child sexual abuse does happen here: it is not a new occurrence, it is not imported, and perpetrators come from all walks of life, backgrounds, nationalities and social status. We are not immune.”

Over the last several years, much has been said about the downward trend in the reported child sexual abuse statistics in the United States where the estimate was that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys would be sexually abused prior to their 18th birthday. That statistic has ‘improved’ to 1 in 10 children. However it is important to remember that these statistics are not reflective of what is going on in Cayman.

“These figures are North American figures and do properly reflect the Caribbean reality where there has been less Prevention Education; appropriate and accurate media coverage of sexual abuse; stronger and clearer legal consequences; mandatory organizational implementation of child protection and safety policies and; intervention of adults with other adults when children’s safety boundaries are crossed, “ explains Sophia Chandler Alleyne, Child Psychologist at the Health Services Authority.

“When Darkness to Light was first introduced here in Cayman, while the information was limited, we were able to ascertain that our statistics were closer to 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys being abused before their 18th birthday,” recalls Cindy Blekaitis, Programme Manager at the Employee Assistance Programme. “Those of us who are at the frontline strongly believe that those figure have, in the best case scenario, remained the same,” she adds.

“Regardless of what the true picture of child sexual abuse is in our region, one incident is far too many,” adds Mrs. Chandler Alleyne.

The Cayman Islands Red Cross joined forces with the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre(CICC), Cayman Story Company (CSC), Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Family Resource Centre (FRC), Health Services Authority (HSA), Hedge Fund Cares (HFC) and the Ministry of Education (MEEGA) through the “Protection starts here” child sexual abuse awareness, education and prevention project, a multi-organisational effort to raise the issue to the national spotlight.

To date the project has yielded a series of hard hitting public service announcements; an educational documentary which highlights the historic, social and cultural factors that drive child sexual abuse locally; a DVD tool aimed to educate and empower parents/ guardians, caregivers, teachers and youth workers; and free monthly Darkness to Light “Stewards of Training” child sexual abuse prevention trainings to the community. Yet the work is just starting.

Seal of Protection

TheSealThe multi-organisational working group has developed a set of minimum standards that all youth serving organisations should meet in order to ensure that the young people in their care are kept as safe as possible, and it is counting on parents and guardians to assist with the push for implementation.

“The idea behind the Seal of Protection is to make it easy for parents and guardians to recognise those organisations and service providers that have in fact taken these measures and adopted best practices by awarding them this seal,” explains Ms. Ferreira.

The Seal of Protection will be awarded to organisations that have met requirements such as background checks/criminal history records for employees and volunteers; written policies and procedures including mandatory reporting, reference checks, and a code conduct (among others); and mandatory training for all staff and volunteers.

“This is really a grassroots efforts to empower parents and guardians as consumers to use the ‘weapon of choice’ to help create pressure on organisations and business establishments to take these steps and put these measure in place,” adds Ms. Ferreira.

While this may seem like a daunting task, organisations are not being asked to do this alone. “We are committed to this effort, so we are willing and able to assist any organisation that wants to obtain the Seal of Protection to do so,” explains Nancy Davey, Children and Youth Services Coordinator for the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre. “The working group is diverse and is made up of extremely capable professionals who will work together with organisations at whatever stage they are in, and that includes those that are starting from zero. This is not a band-aid solution; it is a long term investment that we are making in our community,” she adds.

For more information on the Seal of Protection, Darkness to Light training, or to book a lunch and learn for your organisation, contact [email protected].

Learn more about Cayman Islands Red Cross at http://www.redcross.org.ky.

For more on this story go to: http://www.caymanparent.com/feature/cayman-islands-red-cross-setting-the-standard/

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