Five children who reported abuse by a man at Bartica have begun to receive counselling through an intervention by the Guyana Women Miners Organisa-tion (GWMO), which took psychologist Dr Faith Harding and a team to the community on Saturday.
Dr Harding told Stabroek News that she got involved following a call from the President of the GWMO Simona Broomes about an alleged rape and child sexual abuse last week. She said after that call she decided she would meet the children and their mothers, to find out what really occurred and the kind of assistance she could offer. Dr Oba Osogbo, a clinical Psycho-logist and President of the Guyana Psychological Association and Pastor Wendell Jeffrey of Practi-cal Christianity Ministries, accompanied Dr Harding helped counsel the parents.
The counsellors first met the parents, in effort to understand what happened; simultaneously the children were given art therapy. Later in the day parents and children had a joint counselling session; what the experts referred to as group therapy.
Harding said one of the children abused did not talk about it before Saturday. She said by the end of the session the seven-year-old was able to relate to them what had happened to him. The boy, according to Dr Harding, had complaints laid against him by his school teacher that he was being violent in school. At the end of the day’s session that boy was seen talking and interacting with his peers. “They are going to need a lot of work,” Harding added.
She said Saturday’s session was just the beginning. Next week the children will benefit from another counselling session with Harding and team. Additionally, she said, throughout the month of June, once or twice a week, she plans on working with the children.
Jeffrey dealt with the post counselling coping methods. He said what was important for the children and their parents, to move past the trauma, was how they initiate conversations about the traumatic experience without reverting to the initial stage of anger and hurt. He also stated that it is important that all is done to prevent any further abuse.
Dr Osogbo opined that the session went well with the children and their parents. He said the drawings of the children were expressive and revealed that the children are still feeling the trauma of the abuse. “It is very troubling for me as a scientist,” he said, “because, I am looking at the numbers beyond here and our data gathered has revealed that this individual came up in very troubled circumstances… lack of male role model figure and has a history of drug use.” He said the situation has raised social questions being asked about Guyanese society. He noted that while there is legislation to protect children in the form of the Sexual Offences Act, outside of the act, he questioned the best practices of a society, stating that what happened to the children cannot by any measure be thought to be the best practice as a people and expressed that as troubling.
In relation to the effect, he said there was trauma to the parents, particularly, the mothers in the circumstances. The mothers he stated, are feeling devalued, and are questioning their validity as parents. He said some of them had high blood pressure, are on medication and could not sleep following the revelation of the abuse their children suffered. He said though they are not direct victims of abuse, they are severely traumatised and are victims of the “blame game.” Another effect, according to Dr Osogbo is a strain on the relationship of the parents of the abused children. “Husbands who were away at work are coming back and blaming the wives,” he said those marriages are now under threat… because everyone is highly emotional…”
He said what was troubling was that outside of the five children counselled on Saturday, there were reports of other children, who are being sexually abused in the community by other males.
Based on his responsibility as the President of the Guyana Psychological Association and the Caribbean representative for Guyana in that capacity, Dr Osogbo said he has some serious thinking to do and reportage.
“I have to find some answers for what we have seen here today. This in my view is a horror story,” he said.
Furthermore, he highlighted the issue of parents feeling powerless in the case of not having the financial resources to engage the judicial system or the knowledge with the legal procedures.
He also signalled his willingness to train members of the Guyana Police Force, who he opined, are not equipped to deal with abuse and other sensitive issues. “These officers would need not only to be told that there is a law or there is an act passed into law, but they would also need to be prepared,” he said, adding, “and the only way to be prepared, is to be trained by a psychologist on an ongoing process.”
He said he has already interacted with the Guyana Police Force. “This is not an individual issue, but this is an issue of Guyana and this is an issue of love for your country,” exclaimed Dr Osogbo, adding, “and wanting the best for your country and your people.”
Meanwhile, speaking to this newspaper via telephone, Broomes said there had been some movement on the cases by the police, “but to have Dr Faith and her team respond so promptly, shows a great collaboration and it shows where the passion lies…”