Bearing in mind that child sexual abuse is one of the worst forms of abuse against children, the need for counselling services to cater for children after abuse is often stressed, however, it is being reported that such services have been improved to help affected children recover.This is according to ChildLink, an advocacy group which recently conducted a study on Child sexual abuse in Guyana.According to the group, child sexual abuse is when an adult or older individual coerces, forces or persuades a child into sexual activities. ChildLink describes the act as alarming and distressing since it causes trauma among other issues for a child.The report was keen to note that the number of reports relating to child abuse has increased, especially child sexual abuse which may mean that more child victims are being enabled and empowered to recount what has happened to them.More importantly is that some improvement has been recorded in the delivery of services to children who have been sexually abused.“In 2014, there were 3,883 reported cases of child abuse to the Childcare and Protection Agency, 628 (16 per cent) were child sexual abuse cases. In 2017, the CPA report reflected a total of 4,179 cases of abuse with 841 (20 per cent) of those cases being child sexual abuse. In a period of three years (2014-2017) there has been an increase of 5 per cent of reported child sexual abuse cases,” the report finds.In addition, “In 2015 and 2016 the CPA received 676 and 734 reports of sexual violence, respectively constituting 15 per cent of the reported cases of abuse against children. In 2017, the CPA reports indicated there were 4179 cases of child abuse, of which 20 per cent was cases of child sexual abuse totalling 841 reported cases,” ChildLink expressed.According to the group, since the launch of the Sexual Offences Court in November 2017 by the acting Chancellor and the Judiciary there has been approximately 80 per cent successful prosecution rate of child sexual abuse cases that have made it to the new Court.About 30 per cent of reported cases of child sexual abuse are referred to the Child Advocacy Centres (CACs) where children receive services to specifically address the trauma and support through the legal process.Although some are supported through their rehabilitation phase the report finds that over 500 children annually may not receive any counselling for the trauma they have suffered and are likely to grow into adulthood bearing the wounds of their traumatic childhood.It is for this reason that psychosocial support services in all regions of Guyana for children is a necessity for developing a socially and mentally healthy community and society.ChildLinK and Forward Guyana in collaboration with the Child Care and Protection Agency (CCPA) managed to open Guyana’s first CAC in Georgetown in February 2014. Another was opened in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) in May 2015 followed by another in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) in September 2015.Blossom Inc, another partner of the CPA, opened another CAC in Georgetown and another in Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) during the 2015 to 2016 period. Since the opening of the CACs, both agencies have been receiving referrals from law enforcement, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Ministry of Education through the schools, Georgetown Public Hospital, and the Childcare and Protection Agency of children who are known or suspected to have been abused sexually.From February 2014 to December 2017, these referrals to CACs operated by ChildLinK totalled 171 in Region 4 (Georgetown); 87 in Region 5 (West Coast Berbice) and 80 in Region 3 (West Bank Demerara). ChildLinK received a total of 338 referrals during this time period.Data for this report was collected from the children’s files or face-to-face interviews, as described below. While those children who are reported to CACs are undoubtedly just a small portion of the victimised children in Guyana, and most likely differ in some ways from their peers who are abused but do not come to the attention of authorities, these children, nevertheless, provide a chilling insight into the problem of CSA in Guyana, and potential solutions. Child Advocacy Centres (CACs) are internationally accepted as the best model for investigating and coordinating efforts for suspected child victims of sexual and other violence.According to this model, professionals from the Police, Public Prosecution, Child Protection services, medical teams, and NGOs coordinate their efforts to investigate serious crimes against children through the CAC.
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