A total of six focus groups were conducted on Montserrat looking into the issue of sexual abuse of minors. The results of these focus groups detail the scope and depth of the problem. The many issues associated with this matter of the sexual abuse of minors cannot all be dealt with in a single article. As a consequence, MNI Alive continues our coverage on the matter, reaffirming our stance against child sexual abuse on Montserrat (and the Caribbean at large) and putting forward a position for a united voice from all Montserratians to combat this issue. As was previously highlighted, this is not a matter for any person or single agency to undertake alone. It is an issue that requires a community response.
As a people, there is a call to look inwards and decide by faith or conscience on which side of history we wish to stand pertaining to this matter. Are we willing to be silent bystanders in the continued sexual abuse of our minors? Will we sit back and be apologists and, due to allegiances - political or otherwise - allow this illness to continue to ravage our community? Or will we, without fear, speak up? Will we as Montserratians form creative alliances on Montserrat's shores and across the world wherever Montserratians are found to decide how we can debate, educate, support, expose and redress this social ill? On which side of the fence will we stand?
Victims and parents need to be able to access services, psychological and medical, with confidence in confidentiality. Churches and social service organizations need to lobby alongside citizens to get the legal machinery to establish a zero-tolerance policy where the sexual molestation of a minor is concerned. We must send a resounding message that it is wrong to sexually exploit our minors and this will not be tolerated. No one - not even parents who allow this to occur either by their encouragement, participation, acceptance of a pay-off for silence - should be exempt from prosecution to the fullest extent of a very unforgiving law.
Real social and political advancement does not come by covering up and hiding the real issues that affect a country. We speak of development, well, that goes beyond economics. I posit that a wholesome society, beyond economic development, is derived when social organisations are strong enough to instill a sense of community and to redress social ills that threaten to consume the citizens. A progressive Montserrat is one where the people seek a better day for themselves and each other, through active and vocal participation in the direction of the island in all areas of growth. Some may not wish for it to be so, but Montserratians everywhere must recognise that the island is all theirs too, and it is their right to seek the future that is deserved.
There is, in MNI Alive's view, a wall of silence and seeming acceptance in operation from a wide cross section of persons that hate the highlighting of this issue of the sexual abuse of our minors, and would like to force all coverage to go away. Former Governor Waterworth, during his tenure, recognised the depth of the problem. He spoke out about it and acted to highlight it. Others too, with rank, have known but stayed silent about it.
Some scared women recant their complaints to MNI Alive, describing the circumstances where they, as minors, below the age of consent, were sexually violated. Yet, when some of these women sought help, they were turned away in some instances, being told that nothing can be done because of the individuals involved.
As a community, we have been culpable. Even with this most recent incident coming to light, voices have raised against shining a light on this odious occurrence. Many wish for the circle of silence to remain unbroken, but silence offers no victory for anyone in a horrific situation like this.
There exists a booklet on Child Protection on Montserrat. How many families actually know of this booklet and can readily access it? Was there a programme of dissemination to ensure that every household has a copy?
To grasp more on this, download the attachment below that comprehensively outlines the results of 6 focus groups that were held on Montserrat in 2009 in a study looking at child sexual abuse in the Eastern Caribbean. The study was conducted by Adele D. Jones and Ena Trotman Jemmott.
The study came about as a result of the UNICEF/Governments of the Eastern Caribbean Programme of Cooperation 2008-2011 and was a joint initiative of UNICEF/UNIFEM together with stakeholders from the Caribbean region. Montserrat was a participating country in this study. The Department for International Development (DfID) partly funded the study to support the inclusion of countries like Montserrat.
Download the document below that gives the full results of the focus groups:
Jeevan Robinson is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive, a global Caribbean marketing, news and information (MNI) media house. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.