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Child Abuse in paradise is no laughing matter


She wears a sweet smile, but the work that she and her team is involved in is nothing to smile about, as she noted with disdain, an upsurge in reported cases of sexual abuse amongst Virgin Island children.  Mrs. Stacy Stoutt-James passion for safeguarding the territory’s could be heard in her voice as she spoke to VI Life & Style Magazine about our social ill: child abuse.

The month of April ‘buzzed’ with activities in celebration of Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, held under the theme:  “Break the Silence.”

The month’s activities included a Child Abuse Prevention Radio Report, Light It Up Blue Fun Day March held in collaboration with the Autism Centre, Early Childhood Practitioners Training on Child Protection, and Drive Blue/Wear Blue Day. However, the highly anticipated March against Child Abuse planned in collaboration with BVI Seventh-day Adventist Churches had to be cancelled due to inclement weather.

Speaking to the issue of child abuse and protection, Stoutt-James informed VI Life & Style of the signing of the Child Protection Protocol in 2014 by the Ministers for Health and Social Development and Education & Culture, the Commissioner of Police, the Premier and the Director of Public Prosecution.  This document promotes the safeguarding of out territory’s children and outlines standards for reporting and investigating suspected cased of abuse.  All agencies who work with children have their role to play and if not, they will surely pay for the Protocol has a heavy fine for failure to report.

Stoutt-James told of the increase of reported cases of abuse in the territory, “In 2014, we had a total of 31 cases of child maltreatment reported to us. Last year we had 83,” she said. “We continue to see sexual abuse as our highest type of reports being made. In 2014, we had 17 reports, and last year we had 32 children.”

Stoutt-James added that “To translate those numbers, people are reporting more, people are feeling more comfortable in reporting, and our kids know what to do if somebody tries to hurt them.”

It is the objective of Social development Department to continue to promote awareness, to continue to educate children about body safety, to inform the public about their ongoing work, and to provide local statistics about how the children are affected so that people can be aware that this is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.

“We are doing a substantial amount of work,” she said, adding that is always more that can be done and an entire societal approach is needed to addressing this societal ill.”

Let us all do our part.  Let’s Break the Silence!