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Jun 15, 2006

Statistics paint grim picture of child abuse

Story PictureIf seeing the growing torrent of sexual abuse cases chronicled by the news media hasn’t made you depressed enough, hold on, because it gets worse. The latest statistics show that the problem is even more devastating than we thought.

Jennifer Lovell, Counsellor
?The perpetrators can make bail, and then they leave the country. Some leave the country go to Guatemala, go back to Mexico, or go to the States. So they don?t show up for cases, or the cases take so long going through the system that the child, when the child was molested looked like a baby, by the time it gets into court the jurors are seeing a teenager.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Research conducted by Counsellor Jennifer Lovell reveals that between 2003 and 2005 there were a total of eight hundred and forty two reported cases of sexual abuse against minors but only eighteen persons were found guilty of criminal offences.

Jennifer Lovell
?There are huge numbers of children and families that are going in and reporting to the police. But the convictions that we are getting are seven, nine. I think, in the first year we only had seven.?

Jacqueline Godwin
?Out of three hundred and thirty six??

Jennifer Lovell
?And in 2005, we got nine convictions out of two hundred and seventy nine. We are not taking this seriously and I am appalled that we are not more outraged.?

Today we caught up with Lovell as she facilitated a workshop on identifying and assisting child abuse victims. The one day session is part of an ongoing campaign by Youth Enhancement Services. Y.E.S. says its goal is to provide educators with the skills they will need to help students who may be victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.

Marlene Murillo, Teacher, Bethany Baptist Pre ? School
?It is really sad to see that our children are being molested, and are being taken away. Their rights, their childhood and their independence, because then you are not able to be a child because you are focusing now on being abused. What are people going to say? How are they going to look at me? What will they think of me??

Fermin Olivera, Director, Rehab Department
?The teachers are knowing a little bit more they know what to do and where to go and that is necessary. I do not think sexual abuse will end. It has been around but clearly we must do better in protecting our children.?

Derrick Martinez, St. George?s Anglican Primary School
?To deal with children who are being abused is a problem that is affecting our society. And as a teacher, I must be able to know what I am doing and how is it that I will address this situation. And protect the children, because children are the future of Belize.?

It?s an old cliché that probably may have lost its impact throughout the years as children continue to be hurt, abandoned, neglected and abused. Problems that Lovell says have been a part of our culture for decades.

Jennifer Lovell
?There was a song that was popular when I was growing up. I mean it was like (Jenny starts singing) ?Saadarin dah weh the young boy like, saadarin. Fingering dah weh the old man like, fingering.? (Jenny stops singing) Now you understand what that means? Back then and we still see it now in lot of communities, I do not want to name names of any communities, but we see it in the local Belizean communities. This isn?t a thing of refugees bringing it here, it was here. It was here when I was a child and it is here now. And it was in popular culture to the point that they wrote songs about it and it was accepted because everybody sang it, and laughed about it.?

It is hoped that the Y.E.S. campaign will assist in making a change.

Fermin Olivera, Director, Community Rehab Department
?This can be considered as society?s little dirtiest secret. It has always been there and we are happy that more and more we are bringing it to the forefront. People will be more willing to report it. Children will be more willing to report it, and I think that the law enforcement will be more willing to deal with it.?

In 2004, Youth Enhancement Services launched its campaign against sexual abuse and exploitation of young women and girls.

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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