KINGSTON, Jamaica, May 30, CMC – The Centre for Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) is urging Jamaicans, particularly parents and guardians to report known or suspected cases of child abuse, noting that child victims are less likely to report abuses.
“We treat every matter that comes to our attention swiftly and we respect the rights of individuals to privacy and confidentiality, so there is nothing to fear as we have the child’s interest at heart,” said CISOCA head and Superintendent of Police Enid Ross Stewart.
She said that under the Sexual Offences Act 2009 and the Child Care and Protection Act, CISOCA is empowered to take action on all reports of sexual offences in relation to children, reminding citizens that children under the age of 16 cannot give consent for sex.
Ross Stewart said the Child Care and Protection Act makes it mandatory for parents and citizens to inform of known or suspected incidents
“The law is strict in respect of the failure of persons to report instances of child abuse (sexual of physical) and expressly provides a list of prescribed persons,” she points out. These include physicians, nurses, dentists, principals and teachers.
“The State has placed these persons as those responsible and has the burden of reporting all instances of abuse that come to their attention. Failure to comply with this section of the law results in sanctions,” she warns. This includes fines and/or imprisonment for six months,” she added.
Speaking on the Jamaican Information Service (JIS) programme, the senior police officer said CISOCA has developed a collaborative approach in addressing sexual abuse of children and has been working closely with other State agencies such as the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation.
“We collectively take decisions to restore normalcy to families and the best interest of the child is observed,” she said, noting that even after the case has been resolved CISOCA continues monitoring through the school guidance counsellors, foster parents, among other means.
Ross Stewart said that among the most challenging cases to investigate are those where the victim is in an intimate relationship with the perpetrator and is unwilling to give evidence.
“Complainants who are pregnant with the accused person’s child are also unwilling to come forward and give evidence because of the fact that the accused person is the one who will be giving child support financially or emotionally.”.
The CISOCA gave no figures on child abuse cases but insisted that it is important for responsible persons to come forward and report what they know.