An eyebrow-raising number of women, mainly mothers, are the perpetrators of offences committed against children.
Statistics provided by the Children’s Authority of Trinidad and Tobago show that between the period May 18, 2015, and February 28, 2021, a total of 27,437 cases were reported to the organisation.
Of this number, 35.4 per cent of the perpetrators against children were their mothers.
This is an estimated 9,713 cases reported over the period.
Out of the remaining 64.6 per cent, an estimated 40.5 per cent (11,112 cases) involved relatives or people known to the child victims.
Strangers (people completely unknown to the children) made up the remaining 24.1 per cent (6,887 cases) and was the second-highest category.
Additionally, of the cases reported, 55.7 per cent, an estimated 15,282 of the cases were females.
About 11,551 of the cases (42.1 per cent) were males, with the remaining 2.1 per cent being unclassified due to the circumstances of the respective case and the information given at the time.
The report went on to note that in that same period, of the types of cases received by the authority, “child neglect” stood out the most, at a glaring 33.9 per cent or an estimated 9,301 cases.
From this, sexual abuse was the second-most frequently reported case at 23.2 per cent (about 6,365 cases), followed by physical abuse at 15.4 per cent (estimated at 4,236 cases), emotional abuse at 10.8 per cent (2,963 cases), children in need of supervision at 5.9 per cent (estimated at 1,619 cases), children in mortal danger at 3.8 per cent (an estimated 1,043 cases), and children who are in conflict with the law at 3.3 per cent (905 cases).
The remaining 3.1 per cent was made up of cases such as lost children, children begging for alms and children at risk of abuse.
In terms of the total caseload, while during the period May 18, 2015, and February 28, 2021, there were a total of 27,437 cases, there did not appear to be any obvious pattern on an annual basis.
In 2015, there were 3,348 cases, with an average of 419 new cases monthly; in 2016, there were 5,322 cases, an estimated 444 new cases monthly; in 2017, there were 4,245 cases, estimated at 354 new cases monthly; in 2018, there were 4,383 cases, with about 365 new cases monthly; in 2019, there were 4,385, with 365 new monthly cases; in 2020, there were 5,016 cases, with 418 monthly cases; and for 2021, as of February 28, there have already been 738 cases, giving an average of 369 new cases in each month.
In an interview with the media last Monday, director of the Children’s Authority Nichola Harvey-Mitchell said the organisation was doing what it could with the limited resources it had been given.
And while she said more was needed, she publicly commended her staff and workers for all they have been able to accomplish with what they had.
She noted the authority may have come back into the public’s eye because of the recent “gap in security”, in which five children escaped from a Valsayn safe house two weeks ago. Following this escape, two of the children, Antonio Francois and Simeon Daniel, both 15, were gunned down in Laventille just over 48 hours later.
However, Harvey-Mitchell said while attention may be placed on the negative at the moment, several success stories were not being told.
“We do have success stories that you all don’t read about, you all don’t talk about, you all (media) don’t report on. We have many success stories with children who left us, left us better because of the type of interventions that we would have implemented,” she said.
Noting the Children’s Authority was designed initially in 2015 to receive less than 1,000 cases, Harvey-Mitchell said in its first year, the Children’s Authority was receiving more than 3,000 cases.
“The demand for our services is growing faster than the ability to get the resources required to treat with all of the cases that come to our attention. And we want to help every child that comes before us. We do. But we are limited by the resources we have.
“And even with what we have, we can do a better job, no doubt about it, we want to save all, but we cannot do so based on the demands we have and the resources available to us,” Harvey-Mitchell said.
She said child abuse was a “national problem” and ought to no longer be ignored.
“These children are hurting children. These children have been traumatised, and sometimes despite the efforts of the authority, we find the children from time to time may regress... but we don’t ever give up on the children because our mandate is to care for them.
“What I would say is that as a society, we need to look at this social ill that we have of child abuse because the children would not be at our home if some abuse did not take place before, if some neglect did not take place from before, if some at-risk situation did not occur in the child’s life.
“These children, they have stories that some of us may not want to hear as adults. They have stories of parents neglecting them, stories of parents abusing them, stories of parents not wanting them, and because of that, they tend to hold a level of anger that sometimes.
“Even in our interventions, we may not ever be able to resolve it. At least not in that point in time... and being children who are traumatised, and that it takes longer for them to really heal as they move forward and become citizens,” Harvey-Mitchell said.