In an effort to bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse of children, which authorities believe is grossly under-reported in the Cayman Islands, the Red Cross has created an educational DVD with local information that will be released next month.
“It’s a national issue that needs to be brought to light. It needs to be a community effort to do the education and to do the prevention,” said Carolina Ferreira, deputy director of the Cayman Islands Red Cross.
“We need to talk about rehabilitation, because we as adults all have a role to play when it comes to prevention,” she added.
More than 45 reports of defilement – an offense committed against a child under the age of 16 – were filed between 2010 and 2013, according to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s annual crime statistics. More than 55 reports of rape were also filed during that time.
As a starting point in their effort to tackle the issue, the Red Cross has been collecting data from local experts over the past 18 months and compiling it on a DVD.
“We are creating a DVD tool which we hope will help to standardize the way which we, nationally, raise awareness of and educate the public on child sexual abuse in Cayman,” said Ms. Ferreira.
First local resource on sexual abuse
“While there have been efforts in the past to highlight child abuse in Cayman, and even child sexual abuse in particular, there is little by way of local tools which provide information about the topic,” said Ms. Ferreira.
In making the DVD, the Cayman Islands Red Cross joined with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s Family Support Unit, as well as the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre, the Department of Children and Family Services, and other organizations.
Ms. Ferreira said the DVD format was chosen to overcome literacy problems, and to make the information more easily accessible.
The DVD, set to be released on May 15, is aimed at educating adults working in the field of abuse prevention, as well anyone who plays a role in the welfare of a child, including teachers, youth workers, caregivers, parents and grandparents.
The DVD is divided into sections: a documentary segment in which frontline workers, experts and parents provide the local context on the issue; presentations on topics such as “Signs of Abuse,” and “Healthy Sexuality;” and a public service announcement about the campaign.
“This tool hopes to provide context that is going on in Cayman. We find that in organizations sometimes the training and information is contained with one person and if that person leaves or dies, that information gets lost,” said Ms. Ferreira
Sexual abuse and HIV
Ms. Ferreira notes a link between sexual abuse of children and the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean.
A 2008 study by the Caribbean Health Research Council found that 54 percent of males and 23.5 percent of females were sexually active for the first time at age 10 or younger.
Cayman Islands Health Services Authority statistics show that, as of March 2014, 60 Caymanians, spouses of Caymanians, or permanent residents were living with HIV or AIDS.
Since the first case of HIV was recorded in Cayman in 1985 until the end of March 2014, 117 people were diagnosed with HIV and of these, five were under the age of 19.
Of the 117 people with HIV, 41 were reported to have died.
“Because we have mandatory HIV testing for work permits, people think it’s something we are protected from and the problem from that is it creates a false sense of security,” said Ms. Ferreira.
Ms. Ferreira said “testing is only a snapshot” of the disease and that there is a three- to six-month window for testing that young people are often unaware of.
“Young men don’t want to get tested, and there is no real support group for people living with HIV and AIDS,” she added.
Among the three categories the Health Services Authority surveyed were new HIV cases, new AIDS cases, and deaths among people with HIV. Of the 117 people who were HIV-positive, 71 were male and 46 were female.
Darkness to light
For parents or caregivers who want to learn more about the issue, the Red Cross offers training in an American-based child sexual abuse education tool “Darkness to Light. Stewards of Children: Five Steps to Protecting our Children” program. Free of charge, the program runs every other Thursday of the month.
The public is invited to attend the Red Cross’s launch of the DVD on May 15 at the Harquail Theatre at 5:30 p.m.
“The event is free of charge and people just need to RSVP, as space has been limited. Once we launch the tool on the 15th, we’re going to make it available for everyone,” said Ms. Ferreira.
For tickets, email [email protected] by May 5.