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Children act out abuse in later life

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

As I approached my presentation to 160 Form One students last week in Princes Town, I couldn’t help but reflect on the escalating level of criminality among the minds “that got away.”

As I worked to inspire the dream of greatness in their minds, I looked out at the students and parents and considered the possibility that among them were some future criminals.

How, I ask myself, do we have beautiful babies with lovely soft skin, nails so delicate, hair so soft to the touch, and the most adorable innocent eyes and end up with criminals, brute beasts without reason?

No parent looks at a baby thinking “My child is evil incarnate” but how often do we determine that we will provide a life that reduces the possibility of that kind of evil? What deliberation goes into our children that result in some becoming so cruel?

Various influences determine the choices that children make and despite providing the best childhood environment, some will still choose a life of deviance.

But early-life trauma increases the brokenness society experiences. More and more, as people become more sensitised to the need to speak out, researchers globally are discovering alarming numbers of sexual trauma as major contributor to youthful deviance.

The thing with sexual trauma in a child is that usually, without intervention the child is left to grow with emotions, thoughts, and feelings that are not processed until they are young adults. By that time, for far too many, deviance is already set in the heart and mind.

This is not the only type of abuse children suffer that impact their growth, development, and later life choices but it is the one that is most insidious, one which society has the greatest discomfort to speak out against.

I reflected on a 2012 story where Margaret Sampson-Browne, head of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Victim and Witness Support Unit spoke on the issue of an 11-year-old girl who was raped by her father and was pregnant as a result.

Sampson-Browne was quoted saying “the biggest problem facing the child abuse unit is that the children are not leaving their homes, but are still becoming sex abuse victims. It is happening right in the home where they live. It is either the father, step-father or uncles who are sexually abusing the children and getting them pregnant,” she said.

The report quoted her as saying, “If a child is being abused, we cannot protect that child if it is taking place in the house in which they live. And now we have to deal with teachers who are abusing the children entrusted to them.

That same week in 2012, a primary school teacher charged with the rape, indecent assault and grievous sexual assault of a 13-year-old pupil at the school where he taught had appeared in the Chaguanas Magistrates’ Court.

Sampson-Browne spoke of reports of “ten-year-olds being abused, fondled and even made to perform oral sex” and “pleaded with parents … to use every means possible to protect children from sexual abuse.”

As I pleaded with parents last week to talk to their children about sex and sexuality, a collective groan of alarm rose mainly out of the students. I quickly and gently quelled that reaction because the truth is that too many of those young and impressionable people who exhibited discomfort with the mention of the word “sex” may already themselves know more than they can or would ever tell.

I’m constantly considering that where parents are perpetrators, the matter becomes more complex; where parents turn a blind eye to abuse of their children, society reaps the rotten fruit of these infractions.

Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media practitioner. She holds an MA in Mass Communications and is a candidate for the MSc in Public Health (MPH) from The UWI. Write to: [email protected]


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