ACTING Supt Claire Guy-Alleyne, head of the police's Child Protection Unit (CPU) and Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU), on Sunday said children's complaints about being sexually abused must never be dismissed by their parents or guardians.
Guy-Alleyne said this at a virtual seminar on child abuse hosted by the TT Medical Association and the Children's Authority.
"A child who is abused may only reach out for help once."
Against this background, Guy-Alleyne said the CPU advises all adults that "when a child comes home and says, ‘Listen, I am being abused,’ whether it is physical...sexual...the first step..is to believe that child."
When children make these complaints, Guy-Alleyene continued, no adult should be asking the child "are you sure sure" or saying "I don't believe you." She explained, in those circumstances, "That might cause a child to clam up and he or she would not further report anything."
Guy-Alleyne also said,"One of the most common offences we investigate at the CPU, is the sexual penetration of a child. We have a lot of reports involving that." She said sexual touching is another offence often investigated by the CPU.
Guy-Alleyne said children need to understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch She said if children understand what this is, "a child will be able to come home and report when something is not happening right with them and you must believe them."
She expressed concern about a trend where people share instances of alleged child abuse as soon as they happen, instead of reporting them.
“When you start to share, you are actually part of the problem and you can be held accountable by law."
She continued, "So posting, sharing or even having child pornography on your phone, it is an offence." Guy-Alleyne said adults must alert children to these online dangers and closely monitor their online time to see exactly what they are doing..
She also said, "What we see happening at the CPU is that, most of the time a teenager may go before the medical institution and seek medical intervention, due to pregnancy.
"What we see happening is that when they go to seek medical attention, the doctors immediately contact the police."
Guy-Alleyne said most of these investigations are difficult to pursue because some people say a report has been made but the people who are responsible for the child "would not even try to coerce or encourage that child to even be part of the investigation" so the matter could be prosecuted before the courts.
She said between January to December 2019, the CPU received 1,983 reports of child abuse. That figure, she continued, increased to 2, 173 over the same period last year.
Guy-Alleyne disclosed the unit has received 517 reports of child abuse for the first three months of this year. She said this is not a bad thing because people seem to be more comfortable to come forward and report instances of child abuse.