In a world where sexual abuse is so prevalent it’s important that parents, teachers and other caregivers understand what types of physical behaviour are okay, which are not okay, and how to talk to children about behaviours that might make them feel uncomfortable.
- 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 8 boys are sexually molested before they reach 18
- Estimates suggest that for every serious incident reported, 10 are unreported
- A child molester may victimise almost 120 children before he/she is caught
- In Cayman and in 2016 the following figures concerning child abuse were released: 53 children were neglected, 36 children were physically abused, 39 were sexually abused, 33 were emotionally abused and 3 were defiled.
What Can I Do As A Parent to Protect My Child?
One of the main ways you can help protect your child is to become educated regarding child abuse. The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) offers training and support services to children and families at risk, and the Family Resource Centre offers training to parents. You should also have an open dialogue with your child about their safety and their bodies, without scaring them. The Darkness to Light programme has produced the ‘The 5 Steps to Protecting Our Children™’, an introductory guide to help adults protect children from sexual abuse. Using an evidence-informed approach, these guidelines provide simple and practical actions you can take to prevent, recognise, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Visit their website to read the guide. In addition the Cayman Islands Red Cross offers Darkness to Light training sessions that are free and open to the public. The two and a half hour session outline five steps to protect children through a video, workbook and group discussion. Visit their website to sign up for a training session.
Who is Vulnerable?
All children are vulnerable to abuse and there is a wide profile of risk factors, however, the NSPCC has identified that children of parents that misuse drugs and alcohol as well as disabled children are particularly vulnerable. Also research suggests that often children who are sexually abused know their abuser. Children are also at risk when using the internet. Social media, chat rooms and web forums all present risks of children coming into contact with a potential abuser.
Signs of Abuse
Darkness to Light has identified the following signs to look out for, however, it’s important to remember that some children may show no signs at all. In addition, victims of child abuse are often afraid of their parents’ reactions or fear getting into trouble. They don’t know how to explain what happened to them and believe any threats made by the abuser.
Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Persistent or recurring pain during urination or bowel movements
- Wetting or soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Chronic stomach pain and/or headaches
Emotional Signs of Abuse
- Anxiety and depression
- Sleep disturbances, including nightmares or night terrors
- Change in eating habits
- Unusual fear of certain people or places; reluctance to be alone with a certain person
- Changes in mood that could include anger, aggressiveness towards parents, siblings, friends, pets
- Rebellion or withdrawal; runaway behaviour
- Change in attitude towards school, lack of interest in friends, sports, or other activities
- Poor self-esteem; avoidance of personal relationships
- Self-mutilation or change in body perception, thinking of self or body as dirty or bad; suicidal thoughts
- Regression to previously outgrown behaviours, for example bedwetting or thumb sucking
- Abnormal sexual behaviours or knowledge of advanced sexual language and behaviours
- Too ‘perfect’ behaviour or overly compliant behaviour
What do I do if I suspect/discover child sexual abuse?
Report any suspicions confidentially to the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) on (345) 949 0290 for Grand Cayman and (345) 948 2331 for Cayman Brac. They are the Government authority under the Children’s Law and the police then conduct investigations in conjunction with the DCFS. You can also call the The Family Resource Centre (345) 949 0006 or the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre Helpline on (345) 943 2422.
What Is Cayman Doing To Prevent Child Sexual Abuse?
Children are protected from all forms of abuse under the Children’s Law (2012 Revision), and according to this law, ‘child abuse’ is defined as the sexual abuse or the physical or emotional abuse, or neglect, of a child who is under the age of 18. In February 2017, The Child Abuse Prevention Policy was launched with the aim of preventing child abuse within the sporting scene in the Cayman Islands.
The Child Abuse Prevention Policy requires the following:
- It is a mandatory requirement for officials of the National Sports Association (NSA) and member clubs to report suspicions of child abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), who are the statutory body responsible for the prevention, investigation and management of child abuse matters.
- NSA to appoint a Child Protection Officer for its association and that all clubs -within the association – appoint a child protection officer for reporting purposes.
- All NSA and club child protection officers must complete Child Abuse Prevention training through the DCFS before taking up their roles.
Failure to comply with the policy guidelines, and ultimately the law, can result in a fine, imprisonment, or both. For more information on the policy contact the Department of Children and Family Services on (345) 949 0290 or email DCFSintake@gov.ky.