More than 3000 children in Guyana faced some type of abuse in 2020, predominantly sexual abuse for and neglect for boys.
This chilling discovery was highlighted in a recent report compiled by the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA).
According to the report, some 3129 children between ages one and 18 were either abused physically, sexually, verbally; neglected; abandoned or witnessed abuse from January to December 2020.
Of the 1698 girl victims, the CCPA found that some 688 of them were sexually abused, with 382 between the ages of 14 and 18 being abused at home. It was reported that many of the victims were violated and abused by persons brought into the homes, especially by their mothers.
Another 632 girls faced neglect, while 258 were physically abused, 104 were verbally abused, 12 witnessed abuse and four were abandoned.
The 8-13 age group had the highest percentage of abuse victims with 579, followed by the 14-18 age group with 544, then the 4-7 age group with 288, and the 0-3 age group with 287.
Meanwhile, of the 1431 abused boys, some 751 of them were neglected. This type of abuse was prevalent among boys between the ages of 0 and 13, accounting for 674 of the victims. Another 432 boys experienced physical abuse, 127 were sexually abused, 102 were verbally abused, 10 abandoned and nine witnessed abuse.
Some 475 boys in the 8-13 age group were abused – the highest percentage of all the age groups followed by the 4-7 cohort with 422, the 0-3 age group with 338, and the 14-18 age group with 196.
Alarmingly, 42 per cent of the 2822 perpetrators who committed these heinous acts were mothers. The records showed that many of them physically abused their children. CCPA records also revealed that 596 fathers and 172 grandparents numbered among the abusers.
Human Services and Social Security Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud, found these figures to be unsettling.
“I’ve noted with great horror and great concern, where children are being abused in our country. We are all well aware of the recent instances where children … were killed; killed in their homes, and by a parent or a person who was in charge of their safety. This is deeply disturbing to me. And I’m sure every one of you is as concerned as I am about the well-being and welfare of our children,” Dr Persaud stated in a message, shortly after reviewing the breakdown of the figures.
The Minister was particularly troubled by the fact that many of the victims were violated and abused by persons brought into the homes, especially by their mothers. To this end, Dr Persaud made an impassioned plea to these mothers, who may be driven by economic hardship and financial opportunism, to “be very careful of the persons that you let into your homes”.
“You are exposing your children to an unknown, and you’re placing your children sometimes in harm’s way. Be very conscious of your child’s whereabout and with whom you leave your child with,” the Human Services and Social Security Minister appealed.
Furthermore, the reluctance of parents to believe, and their dismissal or failure to act when a child tells them about any instance of violence and/or abuse are of great concern to Minister Persaud.
“Take it seriously. We owe it to our children, to develop a culture in our homes, where you’re open to listening to what they have to say about their well-being, and more importantly, about their own concerns for their safety,” urged the Minister.
Dr Persaud pointed out that the closure of schools owing to the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed children into close proximity with the perpetrators of abuse and violence, which unfortunately limits the reporting options.
Nevertheless, the Human Services and Social Security Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that children’s welfare was paramount to the Ministry. It highlighted that through the CCPA, some 1638 of the abuse victims received short- to long-term counselling, while 592 cases were handled by law enforcement officers.
Another 62 cases were placed before the courts and 92 victims were removed from their parents’/guardians’ home and placed either in institutional care or with other relatives.