April 12, 2021

Focusing on child abuse

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bloc-peter-wickham0754-450x303By Peter Wickham, From Barbados Nation News
THE ISSUE of child abuse has recently come sharply into focus as a result of a few well-publicised incidents and there is considerable interest in understanding the national rates and the extent to which they are reported, investigated and prosecuted.
As UNICEF (Eastern Caribbean) has been addressing the issue for some years, CADRES was commissioned to conduct a series of national surveys across the Caribbean sub-region that included questions on the issue specifically. While the issue is complex and includes physical abuse and neglect, along with sexual abuse, the magnitude of the research task was such that a decision was made to focus on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in this first instance.
The issue was explored by way of a series of surveys that sought to determine the public’s opinion on CSA in eight Caribbean territories. The survey spoke to other issues of concern to UNICEF that were not related to CSA and while several questions were asked on CSA, only three are presented here in the interest of brevity. The survey methodology contemplated the sensitivity of this issue and as such no interviews were conducted with children and respondents were asked about a third-party and not about their personal experiences, since the interview team was not capable of responding to any crisis that was discovered. In addition, the questions were crafted to ensure that respondents understand they were being asked to offer an opinion or perception, other than the single instance where they were asked about a CSA case with which they were personally familiar.
Data demonstrated that 47 per cent of Barbadians consider CSA to be a “major” problem, while a further 31 per cent believed that it was a “minor” problem and 6 per cent said it was “no problem”. The comparative statistic reflecting the average Caribbean sub-region’s perception implies that Barbadians are less inclined to think that CSA is a “major” problem.
The fact that just under half of Barbadians feel this way is significant. However, one appreciates also that this perception could arise from several factors that might not be grounded in the individual’s or the community’s experience. Notwithstanding, it can clearly be seen that a majority of Caribbean people do see CSA as a problem.
The second question speaks to personal experience and attempts to convey a sense of a crude rate of CSA in Barbados and the Caribbean sub-region. CADRES and UNICEF appreciate the extent to which this method could not produce a statistically rigorous rate since respondents might have had different understandings of what CSA was and it is also possible that two respondents reported on the same case resulting in duplication.
An approach which contemplated these peculiarities could have been developed at a considerably greater cost; however, the intention was admittedly simple and conveyed a sense of the Caribbean reality.
There is also a significance in the statistic itself which is not consistent with an “overwhelming” problem and demonstrates that Barbadians who argued that the problem is “major” came to this conclusion based on information coming to them outside of their own personal experiences, such as salacious media reports. The suggestion that even “one in ten” children could have been victims of CSA within the 12-month period preceding the survey is also a cause for serious concern, especially as one considers the reality that CSA is not likely to be reported to family or friends in the first place.
The final statistic relates to the belief that authorities would act on a report of CSA, which also speaks to public perceptions and the extent to which people feel that authorities are inclined to take these matters seriously. Almost similar quantities of Barbadians and persons from the Caribbean sub-region believed that the authorities would act on reports of CSA and it is comforting to note that more than half of our populations have such confidence.
Conversely; however, there can be acceptable concern raised regarding the fact that close to half of us believe that the authorities would not act on a report of CSA. There are, of course, several factors that could impact on the perception that authorities would “ignore” reports and several possible options were explored in study.
As is often the case with these investigations, the conclusions cannot solve the problem being investigated but instead create an awareness of the complexity of the issue which is one step along the road towards identifying solutions.
Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES). Email [email protected]
For more on this story go to: http://www.nationnews.com/nationnews/news/72965/peter-wickham-focusing-child-abuse#sthash.5WCJchUw.dpuf

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