Eighty per cent of crimes of abuse against children reported to the Child Protection Unit (CPU) of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, (TTPS), are sexual.
This is according to Acting Superintendent of Police Natasha George, who also said more and more children are now reporting their abuse and the perpetrators.
Via a telephone interview, George was responding to the question of whether or not the TTPS had seen an increase lately, in reports of sexual abuse against minors.
She, however, could not state if the pandemic and the fact that children were at home due to school closure since March, had a keen role to play in this increase.
She said that percentage of reports had been steady for some time now when one looked at the comparative periods passed.
“Unfortunately quite a large percentage of our resources have been attending to sexual offences,” said George.
She said the CPU was created in 2015 and as a new unit, there were little statistics or figures to rely on, but as time passed, and people became more familiar with the unit, reports began filtering in.
But it was the TTPS’s social media accounts and the TTPS app, which George said had led to breakthroughs being made in victims making reports.
“Our communications department has been reaching out to persons via Facebook and via the TTPS app. I would tell you within recent times, we have been getting reports via the app and Facebook especially from children. So children are finding more ingenious ways of making reports.”
Highlighting an actual incident as an example, George said a child via the TTPS’s Facebook Messenger account, reported being physically assaulted by a mentally ill person in the house, but was afraid to tell the mother.
She said when officers visited the house; the mother was completely unaware of what had happened in her own house until officers were knocking on the door.
She said too often the TTPS have gone to parents and told them what has happened and the response was one of shock.
“I think parents are too busy working and they don’t stop long enough to listen to them to hear what is going on,” said George.
Of the instances where a parent or caretaker was aware of an ongoing abuse to a child and did nothing, George said if this is found to be true, that person is charged for failing to act.
She said often when a victim was interviewed, it was discovered the abuse was not a one-off situation rather the victim had been repeatedly sexually abused by his or her perpetrator over a period leading up to the actual report.
“That is the problem with a lot of our victims. It takes them a while before they even have the strength to come forward and report it,” said George.
To pronounce on whether there was an increase in reports during the pandemic, George said, it would be difficult to say.
“Again, because of the fact, that a lot of the reports when we would have elicited information from the children, they would tell you it was not the first time. It has been happening three, four years.”
Responding to the question on what was the deterrent in making these reports, George said there were instances where the victims were fearful—not always due to direct threats by the perpetrator.
She also stated victims would say they did not say anything because they felt no one would believe them or they were even ashamed to say anything until they’ve reached an unbearable point and have to say something.
“A lot of the times, most perpetrators are known to the victim and I know people tend to be upset that we don’t put the faces of the suspects out there but it is to protect our victims. Because we tell you who the suspect is, you’re definitely going to know who our victim is. And we want to protect him or her as much as possible, even if just a little bit” George explained.
She added the protection of the victim was paramount as in some instances perpetrators might be a brother, father or sister.
The issue of sex crimes against children reared its head once again with reports of a 68-year-old church elder from Curepe being arrested and charged for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, the arrest and charge of a 52-year-old father for the alleged sexual abuse of his 14-year-old daughter and the arrest of a 34-year-old suspected paedophile from the Carenage area who was alleged to have sexually assaulted an 11-year-old boy.
In that instance, the man was severely beaten by residents of the area known as Scorpion Alley, before being tied naked to a utility pole.
The man who had been hospitalised since the incident was said to have regained consciousness after reports of him slipping into a coma.
All three incidences occurred in just one week.