Sex abuse awareness campaign benefits companies

| 25/02/2016
Cayman News Service

The Protection Starts Here project aims to increase awareness of child sexual abuse

(CNS): As part of the “Protection Starts Here” project to promote awareness of child sexual abuse, a partnership of Cayman organisations recently made a presentation on the topic, including a local documentary, to car-supplies retailer Automotive Art. Company managing director Wayne Kirkconnell invited the Cayman Islands Red Cross and its supporting partners to present on this issue at a staff training and development meeting.

“I was at the awareness session that took place at Prospect Primary School on January 26,” he said. “Honestly, after watching [the local documentary] and listening through the presentation the only thing I thought about was how many people I can pass this knowledge along to, how can I ensure that this same impact is received by all those around me.”

The documentary, “Unspeakable: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse in the Cayman Islands”, is a local endeavour aimed at raising awareness of this issue specifically within the Cayman context. The film features local experts, frontline workers and concerned citizens talking about the issue in Cayman.

“’Unspeakable’ is a product of the Protection Starts Here (PSH) project,” Red Cross deputy director Carolina Ferreira explained. “The project focuses on putting the responsibility for child protection back to where it should have been all along: in the hands of adults. For far too long we have made children responsible for protecting themselves against sexual abuse and that is as unacceptable as the abuse itself.”

The PSH project is run by a working group spearheaded by the Red Cross in conjunction with the Health Services Authority (HSA), the Family Resource Centre (FRC), the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre (CICC), the Employee Assistance Programme, the Ministry of Education and the Special Needs Foundation.

Nancy Davey, CICC children and youth case manager, noted, “To have the private sector see the value in what we are doing and to partner with us is a tremendous step forward. Every presentation that we have done there has been at least one person, one adult, who comes and tells us their story of how they were abused when they were children or teenagers.

“The effects of child sexual abuse reach far and wide, and those who suffered such abuse are our neighbours, our coworkers, our family members. We all have a role to play in raising this issue within our spheres of influence.”

Sophia Chandler Alleyne, HSA child psychologist, added, “We teach children the correct name for their body parts and the safety rules as a way to empower them in general but also to have the language to be able to speak up if anything were to happen.

“However, to make children responsible for ‘fending off’ a perpetrator or to even suggest they played a part and are somehow responsible for the abuse – which has and continues to happen – is unconscionable. Children should not be expected to protect themselves from the very adults that are supposed to love them and protect them.”

In 90 percent of cases of child sexual abuse the victim knows, and oftentimes loves, the perpetrator as those who commit these types of crime are often close family friends, trusted adults and even members of the family.

“That is often the hardest thing to understand and come to terms with,” said Cindy Blekaitis, programme manager of the Employee Assistance Programme, “that when it comes to child sexual abuse it is not a ‘stranger danger’ situation but someone who is very near and dear to both the child and the family.”

The FRC also sees the long-term effect of child sexual abuse and how it affects adult survivors. “Oftentimes we find that persons who come to us for seemingly unrelated issues are in fact still dealing with the trauma of the abuse they suffered as children,” explained Racquel Duhaney, FRC programme facilitator. “When that trauma is not properly addressed we see how it spills into other aspects of their lives, including their ability to perform at work or even hold down a job.”

Kirkconnell, who is the father of two young children, said other companies would benefit from the presentation. “Several members of staff have come to thank me for having the presentation delivered here at Automotive Art. The [PSH] group’s mission is our mission: to protect children. I hope each and every company in Cayman makes time for this important message. If we can each train our staff to enhance their job performance we can also offer this awareness presentation to make them better people.”

For more information, or to book a lunch-and-learn session for an office or organisation, email the Red Cross

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