Everyday thousands of children are being sexually abused. You can stop the abuse of at least one child by simply praying. You can possibly stop the abuse of thousands of children by forwarding the link in First Time Visitor? by email, Twitter or Facebook to every Christian you know. Save a child or lots of children!!!! Do Something, please!

3:15 PM prayer in brief:
Pray for God to stop 1 child from being molested today.
Pray for God to stop 1 child molestation happening now.
Pray for God to rescue 1 child from sexual slavery.
Pray for God to save 1 girl from genital circumcision.
Pray for God to stop 1 girl from becoming a child-bride.
If you have the faith pray for 100 children rather than one.
Give Thanks. There is more to this prayer here

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse in the West Indies

BY: CHRISTINA SMITH, Loop News

Alicia Bailey
Examining stories of sexual abuse would reveal an alarming trend - that is; in many cases the person carrying out the abuse is known to the victim, sometimes even a blood relative.

The recent #lifeinleggings social media movement brought to the fore a wealth of stories shared by women in Barbados and across the region highlighting the horrors of sexual harassment, assault and even rape; a discussion which has since moved from the social media platform into a physical space and the start of an organisation as more people continue to share their stories and add to the topic.

The common thread running through the hundreds of stories about sexual abuse is the moment the victim makes a conscious decision to break the silence and speak out.

For 33-year-old Alicia Bailey, her moment came on a rainy day in November when she posted a 10-minute Facebook Live video where she laid bare the years of abuse she suffered, starting as early as four years old at the hands of her biological father. The video amassed 54,000 views and loads of comments urging Bailey to seek justice and also offering words of encouragement. But away from the computer screen, Alicia soon came to realise not all would be in an agreement at her move at "taking back her voice".

She told Loop News she was forced to find alternative accommodation after the video aired due to verbal and physical threats she received from family.

“The response has been both positive and negative. Some of the friends of the family 
have withdrew themselves from around me and been very verbally aggressive, basically
telling me to ‘shut up’, to leave those things in the past. Because of the threats coming
from family member is what caused me to move.”

She said although her family situation has fallen into a state of disrepair, one positive she can see emerging is that others have too started to sound their voices and share their experiences of sexual abuse.

Almost half of all Caribbean girl's first sexual experience was assault by family or friend

Her call to break the silence of child sexual abuse is not a new one and is echoed throughout the region by various child advocacy groups. Back in 2010, UNICEF first launched the ‘Break the Silence’ campaign in Trinidad and Tobago to tackle what they referred to as the ‘silent emergency’ of child sexual abuse where it pointed out that “in the Caribbean, 47.6% of girls and 31.9% of boys reported that their first intercourse was forced or coerced by family members or family acquaintances.”

For Alicia, these statistics prove true as she said she has suffered sexual abuse at the hands of 14 people between the ages of 4 and 25, many of them family friends and even one female. She explained it was her father who first molested her at age 4 and the abuse moved to sexual penetration between ages five and six. She said there were other males who took advantage of her as well, some who would visit her father’s family home where she stayed at during the school vacation and even one her boyfriends who invited other males to gang rape her when she was 15 years old. She even disclosed persons whom she sought out for help to escape the abuse all abused her.

She said her marriage - once a source of comfort - became rocky when she realised her husband too tried to prevent her from speaking out about the abuse. She said there was one time when she had mustered up enough courage to speak out but this caused a serious rift between her mother and her father’s side of the family.

“It came out when I was nine, I found that I was having bad dreams and my mum came
to talk to me cause she saw I was really sad. She asked me if my Dad ever did this and
such and I told her yes. She was angry, I remember that night specifically, she broke
almost every glass and every plate in that house. She wanted to kill him.”

She said her mother took her to the doctor shortly after and also to the police station to make a report but as Alicia explained her father was never brought to justice as her father’s wife at the time coerced her into recanting her statement telling her that putting her father in jail "is wrong"’.

Felicia Browne
Human and gender rights advocate, Felicia Browne, told Loop News this situation of coercion that Bailey experienced as a child is not unfamiliar to the region. She said that fortunately legislation which governs child abuse has evolved to prevent outsiders from interfering in a child abuse case and also ensures that victims do not suffer additional emotional trauma during the court process.

Browne, who is a Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, has been a strong advocate for the establishment of a court which deals specifically with child abuse cases, noting that the length of time it takes for perpetrators to be brought to justice is unacceptable.

“In cases of child abuse you find that a child was abused at 7 and now the case is still going on 'til she is 21 so I believe there should be a special court that deals with those situations so immediate action is done in those environments as well,” Browne said.

Although Bailey had made a bold step in speaking out to her mother about the abuse, her actions made the situation between the families tense, causing her to feel the sting of being a victim of abuse. She explained:  

“At the same time my father’s family would be telling me every day that I need to stop lying.
I remember vacation time they wouldn’t even bother to give me special treatment as far as
like as food and things they would give everyone else.”

Browne said the stigma against child sexual abuse has created a culture of victim-blaming across the Caribbean and this only serves to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

“Her [Bailey's] story highlights some of the issues we have been advocating for. I think it is very sad and disappointing that the family has not accepted that this has occurred and I think it is because of the stigma that is attached to child abuse. So rather punish the person that perpetrated the crime we punish the victim, so victim-blaming is this culture still continues. These are some of the things we need to eradicate in the society.”

Bailey was only able to escape the cycle of abuse when she became a teenager and would find clever ways to avoid visiting his family home during the vacation time. Alicia also added it is only now as an adult she understands how she was pushed into this cycle of sexual assault and rape when she found out her father also sexually assaulted her mother, resulting in her in being conceived.

She explained the extent of the abuse she endured caused her to be depressed even to the point of wanting to commit suicide. She also suffers from a physical disability which resulted in her being paralysed from the neck down a few years ago – a condition which medical doctors have attributed to the emotional trauma she suffered. She has since been receiving counseling with a local group known as Supreme Counseling and has also joined a group known as the Pure Sex Center.

Bailey described the task of tackling the culture of silence in the Caribbean as a "giant" of a task but she said she believes if people continue to share their stories with the public they can begin to tackle all forms of abuse.

“Right now I think the only way is to keep sharing and encouraging people to begin to tell
you story. Begin to say this is what is happening to me so that this island of Barbados can
begin to wake up and throughout the Caribbean can begin to wake up and say we need to
begin to put things in place to protect the persons who are innocent and need our help.”

She said she applauds the effort of those participating in the #lifeinleggings movement but she is of the view that an additional approach is needed and that is to counsel those perpetrating the abuse.

“It’s ok to say ‘send them up prison’ but if they are abusers they need help the same way.
They need counselling. If you are going to remand them, send them to prison you need to
counsel them. They [judicial system] also need to enforce that this is wrong - teach the
women, teach the men, teach it in schools. Teachers need to help enforce that this is
wrong so we can fight for the weak.”

Browne echoed similar sentiments, saying the need for rehabilitation of sexual offenders is a priority. She added some have been advocating for an official registry for sexual offenders and noted that in light of the stigma attached to being a perpetrator of sexual abuse there need to be measures in place to prevent them from re-offending.