What are the protocols pertaining to minors?

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Dear Editor
A RECENT article in the media stated that, “…a 15-year-old girl who attempted to take her own life has been placed in the National Psychiatric Hospital…She was reportedly placed there with only a piece of sponge to sleep on, which she said is smelly and the surroundings are unsanitary and inhumane… According to the teenager, she attempted to take her own life on numerous occasions because she was sexually molested, but relatives did nothing to help her.”

This article raises a number of critical issues. Firstly, given that the young lady is alleging rape, should the case not have immediately been handed over to the Childcare and Protection Agency, since she’s a minor and it is well known that rape is often a catalyst for suicide attempts. Are there any protocols in this regard? If so, should the police and the psychologists/psychiatrists at the National Psychiatric Institution not be aware of these protocols? Can the CPA and Ms Ann Greene please, please enlighten us whether there are any protocols in this regard that relate to the role of the CPA?

Secondly, while the police got the child placed on a suicide watch, it seems that they did absolutely nothing regarding her allegations of sexual abuse. Were they not supposed to first take her to a medical facility to seek to get her tested with a rape kit? This begs the question as to whether appropriate training, has/is been provided to the police in this regard.

Thirdly, here is a case of attempted suicide leading to the arrest of a child, reinforcing the critical need to decriminalise suicide. In fact, it is well known by now that this would already have been done but for political grandstanding. Meanwhile, Guyanese are still waiting on the current government to act on a promise made more than a year after it voted in parliament against decriminalisation of suicide.

Fourthly, placing that child under those allegedly conditions at the National Psychiatric Institution will only worsen her mental condition. It has been common knowledge for years that this institution needs large-scale renovation and upgrading. Does the law about placing individuals on suicide watch apply to minors as well? Is the child being offered counseling therapy and other needed interventions?

All of this raise the issue of the child’s human rights, which seemed to have been violated by both the police and the National Psychiatric Institution. But perhaps the very critical issue also is the parents’ role in all of this. Did they ever seek counselling help for the child after that first suicide attempt? Did they ever take measures to determine whether the allegations of sexual abuse are true? Sexual abuse activists and advocates all agree that once an allegation is made, parents and caregivers must first accept that it is true and immediately act on it.

Meanwhile, there is urgent need for the rape allegation to be investigated since, for if it is found to be true, such information could be very revealing as it relates to actions by the family and the police, respectively. As well, while this specific case has reached the public domain, The Caribbean Voice is aware of numerous other cases of sexual abuse/incest by family members that are swept under the carpet as the age old ‘need to protect family honour’ is now compounded by other family members going into denial when victims reveal their abuse and occasionally mothers as wives preferring to ‘hold on ‘ to their husbands who are the abusive stepfathers and so will either do nothing about the allegations or will further abuse the victims physically, emotionally, verbally and/or financially.

Regards
Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice