by Curlan Campbell
- Adult survivors of childhood abuse to document their experiences
- Project is first of its kind to address child abuse, enslavement and torture increasingly prevalent in Caribbean
- Region has no standardised psychological intervention mandated to help victims of sexual traumas
Promising programmes by the Sweet Water Foundation Research and Treatment Institute to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse and exploitation will employ new methodologies to encourage adult survivors of childhood abuse.
In about 500 words, the survivors will recount and document their experiences which will be submitted and form the first part of the research. This methodology was developed for cultures steeped in oral or storytelling traditions and forms part of the three-year Under 5 Project. It seeks to overcome challenges for building an effective response by keeping the focus on the different types of behaviour involved in child sexual abuse and exploitation and the different impacts on children across different cultural and political backgrounds.
Hazel Da Breo, a Psychotherapist and Child Protection Specialist, who specialises in treatments for both victims and perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence, will lead the implementation process of the project. She hopes that this will contribute to the production and expansion of knowledge about sexual violence against children, especially in the under 5-year-old demographic.
“The new methodology is called “gathering stories “and it can be done electronically and will cover an international base. We hope that we will have responders coming from across the globe, so once our ethics approval is in place, we will be asking adults over 18 to recount stories of any child sexual abuse that you have heard of or that you know or experienced,” Dr Da Breo said.
Grant funding of CAD$60,000 was provided by the Government of Canada through its Equality Fund’s Women Voices and Leadership grant programme. The project is being hailed as the first of its kind to address a form of child abuse, enslavement and torture which appears increasingly prevalent in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Sexual abuse and exploitation of children are aspects of the broader and globally prevalent problem of violence against children. It is defined in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.’
The project is being implemented with various partner NGOs in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize and Suriname. A more traditional route in scientific research will also be taken by providing questionnaires where specific questions will be asked to gather as much information as possible regarding the nature of the abuse. The data will be analysed by experts who will then publish those findings.
Unfortunately for the region, there is no standardised psychological intervention mandated to help victims of sexual traumas. According to Dr Da Breo, it is the intention of the research to develop the first comprehensive training packages for an intersectoral cadre of service providers which is centred upon existing resources in the medical and psychological field as well as in education, daycare, recreation, church groups, women’s organisations, and transgender agencies. Training and awareness and resilience-building will also be provided for individuals who are at risk or who have experienced abuse.
During the second year of the project, a group called My Sister’s Keeper, will be established to cater to the needs of adolescent girls who are victims of child sexual abuse. The psychotherapy programme for adolescents has a 14-module curriculum, including legal, medical, psychological and other components.
Another new aspect of child sexual abuse not yet fully explored is the complicity of bystanders. Dr Da Breo is convinced that once data can be collected on why bystanders are complicit in child sexual abuse cases, then this can help policymakers put measures in place for victims.
“A lot of research has been done on the bystanders model when it comes to the Holocaust and there is a lot written were mainly Jewish people have said, ‘My god Europe just kind of stood there and watched millions of us die.’ However in the child sexual abuse model what we have been hearing coming out of our work with victims, is that there is always someone or a family member who knew and was aware of what was happening with the child and for whatever reason they were complicit. So while particularly in Grenada we are proud of how far we have come in addressing these issues in law, we only tend to focus on catching the bad guys and helping victims, but we haven’t paid any attention as yet to the bystanders,” she said.
The Bystander Mobility model, as part of My Sister’s Keeper psychotherapy programme will investigate how women can learn to safely protect themselves and each other from harm. This is being financed by the Ministry of Social Development, Housing and Community Empowerment.