Report warned of increase in allegations of abuse
An increasing number of primary school children are displaying “sexualized behavior” as well as reporting allegations of abuse from older men, according to a consultant’s report on Cayman’s schools.
The report said schools were struggling to cope with the “fallout behavior” from these incidents and warned that access to social and medical services was not always prompt.
It adds that the response to allegations of abuse is variable and that schools are sometimes “left to cope as best they can” with the repercussions. The report, which was released in the Legislative Assembly last week, also raised concerns that too many young boys were learning outdated and unacceptable attitudes towards women.
Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said the Health Services Authority had recently added “significant capacity to support child victims of abuse.”
She acknowledged there were still significant gaps in the system but said moves were under way to improve the scope of mental health care available in the Cayman Islands generally.
The report, a review of behavior for learning and inclusion in government schools, dated November 2012, stated, “There have been an increasing number of incidents, in some primary schools, of sexualized behavior and disclosures of sexual abuse by older men on children in the local communities.
“Schools struggle to manage the ‘fallout’ behavior of such activity and require a much higher level of specialist support from social and medical services than currently provided.”
Ms. Wahler said the gaps in the system were being dealt with.
“The aftermath of abuse leaves damage that requires specialist support beyond that offered by a school system,” she said. “We work closely with the Health Services Authority and with Department of Children and Family Services in dealing with these cases. While it is fair to say that there are still significant gaps in the wider system, particularly with regards to mental health services for children, there is a growing recognition of the needs in this area and efforts are certainly under way to address them.”
A Mental Health Commission, chaired by Dr. Marc Lockhart, was set up earlier this year to make recommendations on how to improve the system, including enhancing the level of support available for victims of sexual abuse.
Dr. Lockhart told the Cayman Compass last month that provision had improved over the past few years. The Health Services Authority now has full-time psychologists dedicated to the field, and Behavioral Health Associates Cayman and the Wellness Centre have trauma and sexual abuse specialists.
But he said more specialist services were needed.
The original draft of the November 2012 report raised a number of concerns about the levels of support available both for children who were victims of abuse and for their schools.
It said, “Where issues of abuse are disclosed by students, schools struggle to manage the resulting behaviors. Access to specialist medical and social services are very limited and not always prompt, leaving schools to cope as best they can ….
“Whilst school counsellors and educational psychologists offer valued support, they are not a long-term solution to the specialist support required from other services regarding sexual and physical abuse.
“Whilst there is a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Education and other services, including Social Services, Health and Police, their response ‘is variable.’”
The report also highlighted a lack of male primary school teachers as a problem, warning that too many young boys were growing up without what it described as “manhood training” and were learning outdated and unacceptable attitudes towards women.
“There are too few men in primary schools to model how men should behave and, as a result, all students have is what they see outside of school,” the report said. “Whilst for most, this is positive; there is an increasing number who see negative and inappropriate behavior from men towards women. They also witness at an early age, sexual activity and ways of treating women that are generally not accepted in wider society.”
The references were included in the original 2012 report, but not the final draft. Neither document was publicly released until they were tabled by opposition legislators during Finance Committee hearings last week. Education officials said the original report had to be revised because of quality concerns. They also said some of the content was outside the intended scope of the review.