MAYARO MP Rushton Paray said rampant sexual abuse in TT should be treated as a “medical epidemic,” as he called for more help to combat the scourge in far-flung areas such as his rural constituency.
He said, “We need a more aggressive approach in these rural communities.” He lamented that while governments and companies such as bpTT and Shell have run parenting programmes in these communities, sadly the families who are most vulnerable to being affected by sexual abuse are the ones least likely to attend. “The targeted people don’t come. The stigma prevents them.”
He warned of the risk of creating resentment if one targets certain communities.
“When a child has been sexually abused, what is to encourage the child or the parent to come forward?
“There needs to be a countrywide conversation, based on the 15,000 cases in three years that the Attorney General (AG) had spoken of last Tuesday in the Senate (in the Sex Offender (Amendment) Bill 2019 debate).” The AG cited complaints of sexual abuse made to the Children’s Authority from 2015 to 2018.
Paray reckoned that illiteracy, poverty and destruction of the family unit had all contributed to high sex-abuse rates in Mayaro. On the latter he said that since 1978, calypsonian the late Austin “King Austin” Lewis had spoken of “children making children.” Lamenting reports of 700 cases of children aged one to three being improperly touched in a population of 1.3 million people as cited by the AG, Paray said, “Madness!”
Given that many perpetrators were themselves victims, he reckoned sexual abuse would be best combated by treating it as an epidemic disease rather than a crime.
“It is a medical issue. It is a mental issue.”
He called for a holistic approach, pointing out sexual abuse can not only cause a child to become depressed and suicidal, but could also affect neighbours and family members.
Asked about a public awareness campaign against sexual abuse, he said a campaign should be taken into local schools from as young as the ECCE school level.
“Culturally we are not as open to talking about sex as people in the US and UK. We need to talk about sex. The beauty of it is that it’s all available online. Let’s treat it as a medical issue.”
He speculated that sexual abuse could arise when large families all slept on one mattress. Saying a child aged three to six often becomes attached to the parent of the opposite gender, Paray warned that risks could arise in this if an adult was mentally unstable.
He also warned that if TT has 1,400 reported cases of abuse of youngsters three to six years old lodged at the Children’s Authority, and only one-third of all cases are ever reported, then the total is likely to be 40,000 cases. “It is scary,” he said.
He paid tribute to Senator Clarence Rambharat for being on the ball on this issue, but added that when the election bill rings it will be a keen contest.