THE spontaneous and justifiable rage evoked by the brutal sexual assault and murder of teenager Leonard Archibald in Berbice will subside. However the angst and trauma his loved ones feel will not.
In the aftermath it is incumbent on all of us, individually and officially, to be more proactive to prevent the sexual predators in our midst repeating such foul deeds.
This is a time when there are clarion calls to be “my brother’s keeper”, “my sister’s keeper”. The idiom “my brother’s keeper” implies that you are responsible for what someone else does or for what happens to that person.
This idiom has been contemplated and discussed in literal, figurative and moralistic terms for centuries, fueling many philosophical debates.
Every day human beings perform amazing acts of courage and display selfless love. In Trinidad on Sunday a teenager, David Sancaro, who lost his life in July for rescuing a woman from being beaten by her boyfriend, was post-humously awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Bronze) for gallantry. Many such deeds don’t always make headline news but that does not matter to persons who are altruistic and unpretentious.
A letter writer this week in one of our dailies had this to say: “The horrific assault and subsequent cruel death of young Leonard Archibald was so chilling there can be no doubt as to the level of depravity of the alleged accused. But what is even more baffling and utterly incomprehensible is the silence and intransigence of the community, who from all accounts was fully cognizant and aware of the goings-on and what took place in the house where young Archibald was taken and where he never was to be seen alive again.” The letter writer also highlighted the spectre of the convenient silence of persons who seem to choose their battles with partisan motives.
In this context, another letter writer recalls unresolved allegations of child sexual abuse against a Rights of the Child Commission nominee, as well as a City Councillor whose colleague happened to be a government minister.
And recently, the “Dem Boys Seh” satirical column made reference to a City Constabulary rank whose reputation has been tarnished with child sexual abuse allegations but apparent official prevarications have so far shielded him from police intervention.
In order to deal resolutely with the clear and present danger of child sexual abuse in our communities, we cannot discriminate regarding which alleged perpetrators to bring to justice or exonerate.
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) programme has blazed an exemplary trail, with Minister Simona Broomes copping a US award along the way for empowering women and girls through her activism. We have been informed recently that members of the TIP Ministerial Task Force have been ramping up awareness in hinterland communities.
The Childcare and Protection Agency, the Judiciary, the Guyana Police Force, the Ministry of Education and a cross-section of faith-based and civil society organisations and groups must galvanize themselves to pursue an intensified and structured awareness programme to deal with child sexual abuse.
Moreover, in homes and schools across our country, there should be an increased awareness of the need to raise street-smart children. The time we spend teaching our children ‘street smarts’ will increase their chances of staying safe should they ever be in a dangerous situation.
Our ‘new age’ parents ought to practice ‘what if’ scenarios with their children. However, this will be a most challenging task for the increasing number of single-parent households in our midst, particularly with so many women being virtually abandoned to manage single-handedly parenting and wage earning tasks.
According to recent news reports, Director of the Childcare and Protection Agency, Anne Greene is mulling the new initiative of establishing a public sex offenders’ registry. This plan comes at a time when Guyana, with the rest of the world, is observing Child Protection Week.
The authorities will be able to keep track of sex offenders and citizens would know of sex offenders in their communities.
Child sexual abuse is one issue that readily transcends our seemingly cultural proclivity to see almost everything in partisan political terms.
Child sexual abuse is a tragic and traumatic experience for its survivors and that is what we as a society must focus on.
The sexual abuse of a child breaks the bonds of trust as it violates one’s sovereignty and comfort zone of physical intimacy. It is a violation that attacks the body and ravages the mind. It takes decades, nay, a lifetime, if recovery is even emotionally likely for the survivor.
When we consider and assess the hurricane-like damage of child sexual assaults, we must face up to the necessity for early conversations with our children about body safety and ensuring that they have safe spaces in which to be children.
In the absence of official data on the actual prevalence of child sexual abuse in our communities and the taboo nature of the subject, we only have the myriad anecdotal reports to guide us in realising that we are facing a crisis.
However, we owe it to our individual conscience to ensure that victim Leonard does not die in vain. Why can’t his brutal demise be a catalyst for change and a call to resolute action in our acceptance that we are our brother’s keeper? – yes it can, it must be.