Head of the Child Care and Protection Agency (CC&PA) Anne Greene is urging swifter prosecutions of child abusers, saying perpetrators are being allowed to go free while the wheels of justice turn slowly.
Speaking at a rally yesterday at the National Park after a march organised by the Human Services Ministry as part of Child Protection Week, Greene called the failure of prosecutions “confounded nonsense” while emphasising that that children don’t lie about sexual abuse.
She told Stabroek News that “poor investigating techniques” are unfortunately at the height of the problem. Greene said that many
of the times when children finally build up the courage to come forth in relation to sexual abuse, offenders are held for 72 hours and are later set free while the case is then referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. She noted that this scenario has allowed for perpetrators to flee Guyana and their communities, essentially putting an end to the investigation and the case.
“The children aren’t lying… it is hard enough for that child to come forward and then their abusers are let go,” she stated.
“I have those children, we have those children in our care and this is taking a toll on them,” she added, while saying that for many of the victims of child sexual abuse they have to live in communities in which they do not feel safe because the police are forced to free perpetrators after the 72 hours.
“This is so hard for these children… we need a lot of advocacy and we need to move these investigations fast. These cases have to go to court immediate, not wait, wait,” Greene said, while emphasising that expediency is of the upmost importance to ensure that victims do not feel re-victimised when they see their abusers walking about in their communities.
She noted too that for children to build up the courage to speak is difficult because of how society functioned and she pointed out that a number of families and community members openly support the perpetrators and hurt the victims.
Greene stated that as a result the system of child care is strained because of the lack of support and children are placed in alternative care because the family did not believe them when they told of the abuse. “This removal from the home has impacted tremendously on the victims who experience secret pains of abandonment and rejections by their family and community,” she said.
Greene reported that from January to June of 2013, the CC&PA had 324 reported instances of child sexual abuse. These figures were alarming, she said, and illustrate the need for prosecutions to be more pervasive. “This is not a true picture since child abuse is hidden crime and grossly underreported,” she added.
Greene told Stabroek News that through advocacy things will change. “There is too much silence, too much acceptance, too much doubt, too much business as usual,” Greene said. She noted that the theme for this year’s Child Protection Week, “Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse and Zero Tolerance for Violence against Women,” has to take on more meaning. Greene stated that the CC&PA has a hotline (227-0979) and that advocating for quicker response time by the police and the justice system had to begin now.
Minister Jennifer Webster was present for the march, however she did not attend the rally. The Education Ministry also failed to send a representative. The rally was attended by UNICEF representative to Guyana and Suriname, Marianne Flach, and the Flaming Word Ministry a Trinidad & Tobago-based organisation advocating for child protection.