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A Most Vicious Form Of Child Abuse
Posted: Monday, March 7, 2005

By Linda E. Edwards

The Film "Shattered Lives" was made in the 1980's as the result of a young girl, who had suffered years of sexual abuse at her father's hands, committing suicide after writing a detailed letter to her teacher about the repeated rapes. She also burnt down the parents' house. Twenty years later, a judge re-sentences a man to fifteen years for raping his nine-year old stepdaughter. His lawyer had attempted to appeal that sentence too, but withdrew the appeal at the last minute. I would have liked to see that creep go to jail for life. I wonder how such lawyers sleep at night, or if they have nine-year old daughters. In Tobago, a couple of years ago, a teacher was murdered for reporting sexual abuse of a child. It is either that the problem is coming out of the closet, or it is on the increase in Trinidad and Tobago, as it is everywhere.

A bothersome part of the case recently reported in the papers is the mother's testimony, which seemed to corroborate that of her husband, the child's stepfather. Too often, mothers make the decision to support the breadwinner in the house, rather than support the defenseless child who has been stripped of her innocence, and subjected to torture. What was she thinking? She chose her man and seemingly would leave the child to fend for herself.

Now that the rapist's sentence has been confirmed, a case can be made for removing the child from her mother's care. The mother may find man number three, who would have a young girl available to him as a laigniappe. This is not to say that every second or third husband/lover in women's lives will sexually molest their daughters, but there is at least a 50% possibility of that occurring. A stepfather who has bonded with a child from her infancy may be a different case altogether. This mother has already proved herself capable of taking sides against the child. What if a second round occurs?

The issue of removing the child from the home raises other issues. Where will the state put her? Is there a system of regulated foster care available to children in Trinidad and Tobago? Does the child protective services have a system for monitoring children in foster care? Time was, you could let a child from a troubled home live with her nennen or her tantie in an informal foster care system, but with societal breakdown happening in every aspect of the country, this system may well have gone to the dogs; so the child could end up staying in a home where she has previously been the victim of a horrendous crime. Will she ever sleep at night if her mother has a "friend" over for the evening?

Would her mother resent her? Punish her for destroying her relationship? Be suspicious of her every move? Would the child be able to put the situation behind her and move on? Would her school work and social relationships be affected by this? Would she be the subject of ridicule in her neighbourhood?

In the video "Shattered Lives" a young Dr. Rawle Edwards talks about the impact of sexual exploitation on children. His words were chilling. He said that the sexual abuser in the home, whether father or stepfather, sees the young girl as a more tender version of the older woman. Softer skin, firmer body and all her teeth, or words to that effect, would make her very attractive to a man involved in a sexual relationship with her mother. He would also have the advantage of authority in the home.

One measure of a nation's maturity of thinking and action lies in what it does for the most defenseless people in the society, the old, the infirm and the children. When a child is abused in a home, by a member of that household, she is both defense-less and alone, and often not believed by the mother .She needs more than the justice system standing up for her. She needs more than a chance to return to school. She needs a home where she can feel safe. She needs counseling

A nine-year old girl should not have to sleep with one ear open to danger which may come from adult males in the household. They owe her instead, a sense of security, of protection. If they abuse the security and protection, the courts must rightly deal with them, but the department of social services, needs to get involved to provide a safe home for the child.

With so much of the nation's people underhoused or homeless, living in shacks, the plight of raped children, children raped in their homes, may seem like a minor issue. It is not. Because of lives that are shattered for a long time, sometimes permanently, the state needs to actively consider alternative home placement for such children.

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