Amid revelations of 13,000 cases of abuse in the past two years, Children’s Authority Chairman Haniff Benjamin yesterday warned that many youths in society are suffering, some in silence.
Speaking during Mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, Harris Promenade in San Fernando, Benjamin said we live in a time when children hardly speak to adults, unlike long ago. “Children must be able to explain to you without fear about anything. We have removed the voice of the child and the child is no longer talking to us,” Benjamin said. “So, many youths are suffering. The child is suffering in silence.”
He said uncaring sentences such as, “yuh good for nothing!” or, “you looking like yuh no-good father”, could have long-term negative impacts on impressionable and emotionally fragile children. “Because you have a voice, it does not mean you have to be reckless. We have to teach children responsibility. How to be respectful to others. Above all, love. I am encouraging parents to teach responsibility with that voice,” Benjamin said.
A clinical therapist and clinical traumatologist, Benjamin was invited to deliver the homily on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day celebrated today throughout the world. The United Nations has declared this year’s theme as, “Stop Violence Against Children.”
Benjamin said when children are verbally abused, they isolate themselves and so experience depression and anxiety. “They become bullies and we are wondering why we have bullies. I want people to understand the various types of abuse and to understand the seriousness of what is going on in TT.”
Benjamin said that within a two-year period, there were over 45,000 calls of children in need of some type of intervention. Out of that number, he said, the Children’s Authority knew of 13,000 cases of children being abused. Saying the rights of a child are paramount, Benjamin called on adults to protect and guide the youth constantly.
He suggested that parents and teachers become educated on the various types of abuse. “Not all are physical or sexual. How can you determine when a child is abused emotionally, psychologically or spiritually? We need to understand the behaviour that is exhibited as a result of these types of abuse. Do not cast it aside as merely ‘bad behaviour’. Investigate why children behave the way they do,” Benjamin said.