The four girls who were removed from the New Opportunity Corps (NOC) following a High Court order, to facilitate an investigation into abuse allegations, have not made any allegations of sexual abuse against any officer working at the facility but have complained about being physically abused, according to sources.
Stabroek News understands that while the four girls have not yet completed their statements to the police and child care workers they have not so far made any reports of being sexually abused by officials at institution. However, they have made such claims against their male peers, following their escape on March 22 from the facility. The girls’ mothers had recounted to this newspaper that the boys had demanded sex from the girls in return for the food they would have taken for them while they were hiding behind the institution.
It is understood that this is the part of the investigation the police would be focusing on, as the girls continue to be interviewed individually by the multi-disciplinary team of police and child care workers, a process that is being recorded.
The girls, who were removed following an official report made by their parents to the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA), which in turn applied to the High Court for their release, have stated graphically how they were ill-treated by named officials at the facility.
They have detailed being treated horribly in what they called the “detention room” but what officials are calling the “quiet room.” They have said that apart from being placed in the room for days almost naked they were also denied food and forced to defecate and urinate in a bucket that remained in the room unemptied. There are also reports of a special hose being used to administer corporal punishment and of regular cavity searches being conducted.
“They have detailed a whole host of physical and psychological abuse… From what they are saying they were treated terribly and horribly and that should not have been,” a knowledgeable source told this newspaper.
Following the 2012 fire, a Board of Inquiry (BOI) was set up and while the final report is yet to be released preliminary reports have indicated that most of the officials working at the institute at the time were untrained and unqualified for the positions they held. Reports are that this situation remains the same currently and even Youth Minister Dr Frank Anthony had admitted at a recent press conference that it is difficult to attract trained and qualified persons to work at NOC as many persons do not want to travel to the Essequibo location to work.
Some observers have suggested that the entire institution should be closed down since it is not reforming the young people sent there but Dr Anthony said plans are on stream to reform the facility and some of these include building separate facilities for the boys as and girls.
And as recommended by the BoI in its preliminary report there is a regular visitation team to the institute to inspect its operation and soon parents would be able to visit their children once a week.
Meanwhile, while it has been widely reported that a senior functionary based at the Ministry of Culture was named in the allegations, sources have stated that the girls have not made any allegations against the individual. None of the mothers interviewed by this newspaper alleged that the individual had assaulted their daughters but had named an officer at the facility who shares the same last name with the official based at the ministry.
Meantime, reports are that the CC&PA is continuing to work out care plans individually for girls as it determines whether they could be returned to their parents.
All four of the girls, according to their mothers, were sentenced to NOC following multiple reports of wandering and officials are now trying to establish if their home environments are conducive for their return. Working on rebuilding their self-esteem is also said to be high on the agenda.
Dr Anthony, who had said that no report of abuse was made to his ministry, welcomed the investigation, saying neither the ministry nor the NOC had anything to hide.
He had ordered that staff members cooperate fully with the investigators.