Several countries of the Caribbean have designated May as the month of the child and throughout the region, events are held to promote children’s rights, to increase awareness of child abuse and to celebrate the contribution children make to social life. We are using this opportunity to highlight the links between child abuse and domestic violence. In our recent qualitative research report Twenty-One Lessons: Preventing Domestic Violence in The Caribbean, http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/30898/ we report on the fact that the majority of the participants, both male and female, talk about child abuse and family violence as a precursor to domestic violence between adults. Furthermore, while analysis is ongoing, emerging results from a psychosocial survey with 1,444 children and young people (10-18 years) from Barbados and Grenada indicate that more than 50% were exposed to violence on a regular basis and that this impacts their views on compassion and empathy to victims and normalises violence as an everyday feature of interpersonal relations. Though the messages from the research suggest the need for a nuanced approach to understanding its complexity, there is a stark lesson here: stemming the prevalence of violence between adults is inextricably linked to reducing violence to children.
On May 6th None in Three joined with Barbados partners Action for Justice and UNICEF to march against child abuse – the photograph below shows some young activists at the rally
No turning of the tide: but why?
No turning of the tide: but why?
It takes years for our children to grow strong and tall
It can take one incident of abuse for many of them to fall
The right environment and nurturance allow them to thrive
It takes denial and dismissal for those abused NOT to survive
In our small island there is no turning of this tide. But why?
We know the right ingredients which must be on children’s side
Could it be a show of power, the big against the small?
The strong against the weak, sometimes for nothing at all?
Many say no, its adults exercising their right for control and discipline,
It’s biblical you know, so no fine-tuning
But let us hear the voices of abused children who say “please NO licks”,
We are already hurting and in pain
Beating us again and again produces no gain
It hurts and humiliates us can’t you see?
It is at odds with what you want to achieve
Why do you not see this and believe?
You are the adults we are the children
We look to you for constructive guidance and assistance
You do not inflict similar pain and suffering on people your age
But wait, oh yes, you do
It is called domestic abuse
There is much more than physical abuse which masquerades as attention,
Psychological and sexual abuses also abound, in this here, small island,
It is an open secret perpetrated by persons from all walks of life
Alarmingly experienced by so many, so regularly, done so confidently
Many types of abuse coexisting with unconcerned alacrity
This is the stark reality
And they are all aplenty
The evidence of children’s pain and experiences seen in ‘acting-out’ behaviours at school,
In the juvenile justice courts and in much more that they do
A re-enactment of “do unto others as it was done unto me”
Without apology; where empathy is an unknown quantity
The legacy of pain and humiliation learnt from early, time and time again
We in this country must turn this tide to reap any gain
The unfortunate remedy, the clarion call seems to be “let’s build another institution and keep them apart”
Repeated medication for the ‘depressed’, ‘the out of control’ just a start
How can these be the solution when the problem of child abuse remains unchecked
When each month, each year so many cases of abuse are reported,
And hardly anyone prosecuted
Few if any dynamic prevention and early intervention strategies exist
So, at risk children and failing families persist
But we have the evidence, we have many skills,
Let’s add some inter-agency cooperation and more political and professional will
We need to change the violence script which many children face
Only then can we turn the tide of abuse; we might even erase
Our intergenerational well-being and survival depend on this
So, let’s make these connections, for our children’s sake, for all of us too
Let’s protect each and every child in our country in all that we do,
Let’s ensure their positive adult transition, it’s our posterity
Let’s turn the tide – harder and urgently we must try
Because, we all know why!
Stane aka Ena Trotman Jemmott © 2017