Planning underway for national campaign against child abuse

As concerns grow over the number of children who are killed or wounded during violent fights between their parents, the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA) has taken note and according to its head Ann Greene a national campaign to deal with the situation is being planned.

In an interview with Stabroek News, Greene said that the campaign aimed at ending child abuse and violence against women could begin as early as September. She said that a decision was taken to not only focus on children but also women because the two tend to go together.

Over the past two years, there have been at least three high-profile cases in which a total of seven children were murdered. In one of the cases, the mother was killed while in another the woman was left badly maimed and is still hospitalised.

Greene said that the CC&PA wants to work towards stopping both child abuse and violence against women and presently stakeholders are being engaged on these issues.

In order for the campaign to be successful, she said, men must also be involved. “It cannot be successful without them. I am not blaming them but they need to get on board,” she stressed. She said too that while society has to look more at the menfolk, women also have to work on how they deal with their relationships.

There is also a key role for communities to play, Green added, while explaining that people need to be more aware. She said that based on reports on the last case, there were signs before but “people are not aware of things that are serious threats to their peace and security.”

She said that persons are hearing things but are doing nothing. She said that persons too are not conscious of their environment.

She also emphasised the need for the media to be the advocate for change as what is reported can influence change. “There things are real and we need the media to advocate for the change,” she said.

According to Greene, the move for the campaign was not sparked by last Wednesday’s attack at Zeelugt in which five-year-old Kimberly Houston and her two-year-old brother Ahmad Lord were hacked to death by their father.

Asked why young children are often targeted, Greene said that parents often use them as the “whip lash to get at each other” although she added that the killings were an extreme.

In the Zeelugt case, she said that previously the agency did not receive any reports about the children, although their mother met with a probation officer about her relationship with her husband.
While stressing that she was not trying to cast blame on anyone, Greene noted that family members also need to provide more support. “I am not blaming them but they need to be more aware and conscious,” she declared. She said that child protection embraces all segments of society and the community and helping to provide support to women and children. “It is a whole lot of work to be done. It cannot happen overnight,” she added.

Back in October  2011, John Blanchard, then 31, of Dr Charles Sand Road, Soesdyke armed himself with two knives  and attacked his son Daniel Blanchard, daughter Joy Blanchard  and his stepdaughter Belica while they were asleep.  Daniel and Belica died that night while Joy succumbed to her injuries several days later.

The elder Blanchard is currently before the courts on murder charges. The preliminary inquiry into the charges was almost to an end when there was a change of magistrate. Stabroek News was told that as such the matter had to be restarted.

Jennifer Persaud, 41, and her sons Afridi Bacchus, 6, and Jadon Persaud, 18 months, were discovered on September 22, 2012  in the bedroom of her home at Anna Catherina, West Coast Demerara, with stabs wounds and their throats slit. Persaud’s 23-year-old partner, who was the father of her youngest child, was arrested along with an uncle, however they were both released because of insufficient evidence. Persaud and her reputed husband had ongoing domestic problems and about one week before her death she instructed him to move out from her home.

The woman’s relatives have repeatedly said that the man is involved in the deaths.

In last Wednesday’s attack, the suspect Richard Lord is still at large, while his wife Nazalena Natasha Houston, 21, remains a patient of the Georgetown Hospital. Her right hand was severed and all the fingers on her left hand chopped during the assault. The woman had told Stabroek News that she was a victim of constant abuse and had said that she had made up her mind to leave him.

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