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Matthews: Child abuse is still a serious cause for concern

Matthews: Child abuse is still a serious cause for concern

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There has been a significant increase in the number of reported cases of sex abuse relating to children during 2010, in comparison to 2009.{{more}}

Cammie Matthews, Head of the Family Services Division, on Wednesday, March 2, told SEARCHLIGHT that in 2009 there were 32 reported cases of sex abuse, but for 2010 there were 45.

“It’s a clear indication that child abuse is still a serious cause for concern here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” said Matthews.

He noted that one possible cause for the increase in reporting these cases is that more people are informed about issues of abuse.

Matthews contends that his division has been in the forefront in collaborating with other stakeholders such as the Parent-Teachers Associations and church-based organizations.

He said his staff has been working assiduously to encourage persons within these groupings to report matters of sex abuse to the relevant authorities.

“I think people are becoming braver,” said Matthews.

“Of course, we still believe there may be many more cases that have been placed under the carpet.

He said most of the perpetrators are adults, who have been taking advantage of children. Matthews pointed out that his division has also received reports that fathers/step-fathers are perpetrators; but from the reports received, the persons accused of sexually abusing mainly females are adults in the communities.

Instances of sex abuse, said Matthews, are reported to the police and, following investigations, some of these cases have gone on to the courts.

“During the course of this year, we are going to make greater efforts to track the progress of these cases,” said Matthews.

He stressed that his division has a sound relationship with the police, but that relationship could be strengthened in terms of following up on the status of these cases.

Matthews added that all of the other areas of abuse have seen significant increases, but these figures will be made available to the public at a later date.

The categories include physical abuse, neglect/abandonment, verbal/emotional/psychological abuse, and non-maintenance of children.

“This shows that, as a society, we really cannot sit on our laurels. We need to become more aggressively involved in protecting the rights and dignity of our children,” said Matthews.

He said his division would like to see instances of abuse against children diminish or be obliterated.

“I just want to encourage parents as well as all those involved in providing care for our children to demonstrate our abhorrence for such social ills by bringing it to the forefront,” said Matthews.