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UNICEF study unmasks child sexual abuse in Eastern Caribbean


BARBADOS - A comprehensive study on child sexual abuse in the Eastern Caribbean has concluded that the practice is a serious and extensive problem for societies in the sub region.

The study “Perceptions of, Attitudes to and Opinions on Child Sexual Abuse in the Eastern Caribbean” was commissioned by the UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in a joint programming initiative with UNIFEM. It was undertaken by the University of Huddersfield and Action for Children, with partial funding from the UK Department for International Development.

The landmark study, which was carried out in six Eastern Caribbean countries, was principally aimed at investigating perceptions of child sexual abuse; exploring attitudes towards the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation; and garnering opinions on the forms of action that might make a difference.

While not designed to measure the prevalence of child sexual abuse, the study highlighted an alarming picture of a social problem which is perceived to be escalating; has increasingly severe consequences for Caribbean societies; and has multiple layers.

The researchers concluded that the practice is perpetuated not only by adults who carry out harmful sexual practices with children, but by non-abusing adults through complicity, silence, denial and failure to take appropriate action.

The researcher team, led by Professor Adele Jones of the University of Huddersfield and Ena Trotman Jemmott, a Consultant working on the behalf of Action For Children, confirmed findings reflected in other studies that the majority of child abuse was committed by adult men, with most victims being girls.

However, it also indicated that the abuse of boys, mostly by men also, was a significant and growing problem.

Men who abuse children were reported as coming from all social backgrounds, walks of life, professional groups, levels of education and ages.

The study, which involved over 1,400 people through surveys, interviews and focus groups, showed that while some women were also sexually abusing children, women’s main contribution to the problem was failing to protect minors even when made aware that abuse was occurring.

Tom Olsen, UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, described the study as the first important step in the process of addressing the growing problem of child sexual abuse in the sub region.

“We’ve always believed that we must have an evidence-based approach to support partners in the delivery of programmes to ensure a protective environment for children in the sub region. This study fills some of the research gaps which previously prevented stakeholders from designing holistic programmes to begin tackling this problem,” Olsen added.

The results of the study are currently being discussed with the governments of Anguilla, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat and Saint Kitts and Nevis, where the research was carried out.

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UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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