In the midst of predators

As a political figure sometimes I will have to speak on issues that are not particularly pleasant.

However, it is my duty to bring these to the forefront so that people are aware that the problems exist.

It is only through frank discussions that we can then hope to bring about much needed changes.

If we are ever forgetful about the dangers of what I have coined the ‘ostrich disease’ (sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring our problems) we can reach into the not so distant past and recall when gangs were first present in Cayman. Certain leaders refused to acknowledge that we had gangs in Cayman and as result valuable time was lost in implementing effective solutions to the problem.

The issue I want to discuss today is that of defilement of our children. Many of you may not think of it as defilement, but are very much aware of older men having relations with young girls. This issue is of grave concern to me as a member of this community. I have seen far too many instances where adult men have engaged in sexual relations with children in some cases as young as 13. These predators often seek out young ladies who are vulnerable, young and na├»ve. They prey upon these girls by offering them gifts, money or sometimes by filling the void that a one-parent home has left in that child’s life.

I would not like to see this situation become an epidemic here in the Cayman Islands.

There are far too many social problems that will be created if this situation remains unchecked.

Like many of our issues this one is not unique to the Cayman Islands. It has actually been termed ‘cross-generational sexual relationships’ by the experts. They have done research in other developing countries that we should take note of.

For example, the young girls in these relationships are at a greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancies. The child can also suffer from emotional abandonment that will last a lifetime.

In addition, because of the imbalance in the relationship there tends to be a greater risk of violence. There is no doubt that this type of relationship is a dangerous liaison.

Too frequently

One might wonder why these relationships are occurring more and more frequently (the court listings speak to this fact).

There are many reasons why. Some of the more obvious reasons are young girls depend on their older partners for basic needs – school fees, textbooks, health care, or food. Others, however, want luxury items they could not otherwise afford – fashionable clothes, cell phones, dinners at restaurants and trips to the hair salon – ambitions directly linked to peer pressure.

Girls feel the need to live up to their friends’ standards. Also, some young girls are trying to fill an emotional void that may have been left by an absentee father.

From the man’s perspective he may be attempting to capture something from his youth or some other deep seated emotional issue.

Whatever the reasons we need to now look for viable solutions:-

Parental Guidance: Parents have to be warriors on behalf of their children. Let me assure you that it is often the case that no one else will be looking out for your child. We used to live in a society where children were ‘raised by the neighbourhood’. This is no longer the case. Parents have to be vigilant in monitoring the activities of their children. If a child suddenly has access to jewellery and other materials that you have not bought for them find out the source of these items. Also, you should know who your child’s friends are and be approachable yourself. If you are approachable chances are someone will come and tell you what is going on with your child.

Talk about issues

Talk to your children about this and other such issues. Children will often want some sort of guidelines and who better to hear it from than a loving parent?

Stricter Enforcement: When men are caught and charged with defilement the penalties should be very strict.

Jail terms need to be revised in this area. Do not think for one moment that a strict jail sentence will not serve as deterrence.

Social Unacceptability: Just as peer pressure works for young people it also works for older individuals. If you know of someone who is engaging in such an inappropriate relationship with a young girl do not offer any signs of acceptance – including your silence. Instead, let that person know how repulsive you find that behaviour. In my mind these people are the equivalent of child molesters and should be treated as such. If you pass the high school and see a non-parent picking up a child make it your business to make some inquires and report it if necessary. Remind these individuals that they have mothers, sisters and daughters who hey would not want this happening to.

It is unfortunate that in this day and age we have to make such a consorted effort to protect our children. However, they need our protection from the predators that are in our midst. Sometimes, our children even need protection from themselves. I would encourage all parents to discuss this with their children and become more vigilant on all fronts.

Sandra Catron