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May 14, 1999

G. Michael Reid talks about child abuse

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Tonight, G. Michael Reid takes a hard look at the recent cases of child molestation and the long term effects such incidents have on the victims and our society.

“Hardly a day goes by of late, that we do not see at least one story on the news about some adult having sexually abused a child. A grimmer reality is that the cases we hear about on a daily basis are only a fraction of those that actually occur. And according to the Chief Magistrate, those reaching the courts alone, number as many as five a day. Another sad possibility is that a majority of the cases concerning sexual abuse of children are still not being reported and reliable research reveals that as many as one out of every four children are victims. This is indeed appalling especially when we take into consideration the small size of our population.

Another disturbing likelihood of course is that the increase in the number of cases being reported might not necessarily mean that sexual abuse is on the rise, but that it has instead been prevalent all along and that folks are only now feeling brave enough to come forward. For a long time people everywhere and especially in Belize, have been burdened with a fear of feeling shame. Many times families and close friends with knowledge of abuse have covered up the problem not wanting to be associated with a scandal. The reality of all this is that no amount of shame should be too much to confront if it means saving one child from the lifetime of misery that is usually the result of sexual abuse.

While the physical damage of sexual abuse may indeed heal with the passage of time, the mental effects remain forever and victims grow up unable to enjoy a normal and trusting relationship. They are usually faced with serious disorders that often result in sleeping disturbances, depression, low self-esteem, drug or alcohol problems and even suicide attempts. To abuse a child is to make an already tough life even tougher and deprives that person of the opportunity for a normal healthy life.

Sexual abuse in the majority of cases involves some element of betrayal of trust and is a blatant abuse of an adult’s power over a child. It is without a doubt, a cowardly act. It suggests that a man is not competent and cannot normally interact with a grown woman and therefore takes advantage of the vulnerability in a child. Sexual abuse is not necessarily a sickness but a weakness to the very desires that are very much a part of every human being. Those who commit sexual offenses are not able to or choose not to exercise control over these desires and wind up succumbing to the most evil of temptations. In the case of older children, some adults have even tried to place the blame on them for the abuse, with a popular line being, “ih mi di look for it.” The fact is that when it comes to sexual abuse, children are never at fault for until late into their teens, while they might look, think and act like they do, they really do not know much about the interaction between the sexes. An adult on the other hand must be held accountable for his actions and must be tactful and carefully discreet when dealing with children.

Parents also must face the possibility that anyone, regardless of how close to them they might be, has the potential for being a child molester. From the very young to well into their teens, parents must be very careful as to into whose care they entrust their children. Parents need to also teach their children how to recognize danger signs and must make children feel comfortable enough to talk about it if needs be. Once an infraction has occurred the problem must be brought to light for silence will protect only the offender and cause irreparable damage to the child.

Of course when the perpetrator turns out to be a preacher or a teacher, then the situation becomes quite complex. Students at SJC were last week thrown into a state of shock at the news that senior teacher Carlos Milan had been arrested for molesting a seven year old child. Although the child was not a student of Milan’s the fact that this man was a teacher made this incident seem even more grevious, if that is indeed possible. A month or so ago, we got news of another teacher in Ladyville who had impregnated his fifteen year old student. And the most appalling by far, is the case of Calbert Linares and interestingly enough we have heard little more about this case. On April eighth Linares was questioned about claims that he molested at least seven of his male students at the Belize School for the Deaf. Linares, who is himself deaf, is alleged to have been molesting students since the inception of the school in 1983. While to take advantage of any child is indeed abhorring and appalling, to take advantage of children who are already burdened with a handicap is as low as one can sink. Last we heard of this case there is a possibility that this man might be let off “scott free” because too much time had elapsed. Apparently the only witness who could have implicated Linares is said to have had a change in testimony after a visit with the accused.

Many times, victims of child abuse do not come forward or recant because they are threatened or bribed by the perpetrator. Once it is reasonably established that a crime has been committed, it should no longer be up to the victim to decide if there will be a case. If a law is broken irrespective of what a victim wants to do, the perpetrator must be brought to trial. There will also have to be adequate protection for victims and witnesses in rape and child sexual abuse cases, even if it means denying bail to suspects. There will also have to be punishment that will be fitting to these crimes. Sexual abuse of children is a very serious matter and one that requires imperative and unrelenting attention.

Let us stop this injustice to our children and be mindful to heed the warning of the Bible, “for whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he was drowned in the depths of the sea.”

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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