Categorized | Features, General, Local, News

Blowing the Whistle on Breaking the Silence

by Cleo Cassell*

As I sit sipping a soothing cup of hot bush tea a clip from the morning news causes my placid thoughts to vaporize. The sound byte tells about a laudable one-day child protection and safe guarding workshop put on by the Community Services Department for coaches in an attempt to help them “recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse” to help “break the silence”. Even though the sound byte seems to focus on abuse in a generalized manner, my thoughts struggle to wrap themselves around the denotative meaning of the word silence in the context of sexual abuse and what it means here, in our little Montserrat (and perhaps elsewhere).

Montserrat signs MOU on Protection from Child Abuse

Montserrat signs MOU on Protection from Child Abuse with UNICEF and DFID

The dictionary informs us that silence reflects muteness and concealment; and within our context UNICEF further supports in its “Break the Silence: end child sexual abuse” article that “most abuse is hidden and the available data does not reflect the actual magnitude of the problem we know that worldwide an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence (WHO; 2002).”

Although this may indeed be true, whispers of abuse and coercion of boys and girls by seemingly repeat offenders of prominent and revered stature thread through our community recurrently; and nothing is done.

Here lies the ultimate contradiction, these whispers then become muted in a sense, but never truly disappear from the mind because they linger. Although the faces of the victims may change over time, each time one hears of another story about the sordid cycle, we are reminded about the type of characters we indirectly shield. The scandal may subside for the individuals who commit these heinous acts against humanity and for those who are not directly affected, but amidst the silence the victims become tainted, and overshadowed by shame and guilt. What happens to our boys and girls who are left to deal with their unfortunate circumstances on their own? What happens to them after the abuse ends? Please be reminded that because these crimes of sexual abuse come to naught the victims most likely do not receive counseling or a constructive way to truly deal with what has happened to them.

Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in many ways, and may even haunt their adult existence. According to The American Humane Association “[t]he effects of sexual abuse extend far beyond childhood. Sexual abuse robs children of their childhood and creates a loss of trust, feelings of guilt and self-abusive behavior. It can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, identity confusion, loss of self esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to difficulty with intimate relationships later in life.” Do we truly want this revolting cycle to continue? Do we truly want to continue to damage future generations? Should we continue to protect the offenders by putting a price on our souls?

As a community we need to take a more balanced approach in that all perpetrators of sexual abuse to children should be held accountable. In the same breath, parents who let their children frolic unsupervised until God forsaken hours into the dew filled morn (especially around Christmas) should be mindful of the wolves who thirstily prowl our lush isle seeking their next succulent morsel. It’s not only the silence we should break: it’s also the fear to speak out.

*Cleo Cassell is an English teacher at the Montserrat Secondary School.

 

 

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

by Cleo Cassell*

As I sit sipping a soothing cup of hot bush tea a clip from the morning news causes my placid thoughts to vaporize. The sound byte tells about a laudable one-day child protection and safe guarding workshop put on by the Community Services Department for coaches in an attempt to help them “recognize the signs and symptoms of child abuse” to help “break the silence”. Even though the sound byte seems to focus on abuse in a generalized manner, my thoughts struggle to wrap themselves around the denotative meaning of the word silence in the context of sexual abuse and what it means here, in our little Montserrat (and perhaps elsewhere).

Montserrat signs MOU on Protection from Child Abuse

Montserrat signs MOU on Protection from Child Abuse with UNICEF and DFID

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The dictionary informs us that silence reflects muteness and concealment; and within our context UNICEF further supports in its “Break the Silence: end child sexual abuse” article that “most abuse is hidden and the available data does not reflect the actual magnitude of the problem we know that worldwide an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence (WHO; 2002).”

Although this may indeed be true, whispers of abuse and coercion of boys and girls by seemingly repeat offenders of prominent and revered stature thread through our community recurrently; and nothing is done.

Here lies the ultimate contradiction, these whispers then become muted in a sense, but never truly disappear from the mind because they linger. Although the faces of the victims may change over time, each time one hears of another story about the sordid cycle, we are reminded about the type of characters we indirectly shield. The scandal may subside for the individuals who commit these heinous acts against humanity and for those who are not directly affected, but amidst the silence the victims become tainted, and overshadowed by shame and guilt. What happens to our boys and girls who are left to deal with their unfortunate circumstances on their own? What happens to them after the abuse ends? Please be reminded that because these crimes of sexual abuse come to naught the victims most likely do not receive counseling or a constructive way to truly deal with what has happened to them.

Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in many ways, and may even haunt their adult existence. According to The American Humane Association “[t]he effects of sexual abuse extend far beyond childhood. Sexual abuse robs children of their childhood and creates a loss of trust, feelings of guilt and self-abusive behavior. It can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, identity confusion, loss of self esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to difficulty with intimate relationships later in life.” Do we truly want this revolting cycle to continue? Do we truly want to continue to damage future generations? Should we continue to protect the offenders by putting a price on our souls?

As a community we need to take a more balanced approach in that all perpetrators of sexual abuse to children should be held accountable. In the same breath, parents who let their children frolic unsupervised until God forsaken hours into the dew filled morn (especially around Christmas) should be mindful of the wolves who thirstily prowl our lush isle seeking their next succulent morsel. It’s not only the silence we should break: it’s also the fear to speak out.

*Cleo Cassell is an English teacher at the Montserrat Secondary School.