HORRIFIC stories often dominate headlines worldwide, of inhumane acts committed against children, oftentimes by their own parents, grandparents or close relatives and primary caregivers, including teachers. Of recent times Guyana’s media headlines made the nation reel in shock, as tales of bestiality against children took centre stage. Last Saturday’s fire at Bartica, which claimed the lives of a woman and her two children, was reportedly the culmination of years of domestic abuse. It was another of thousands of incidents where women, and oftentimes their children, paid the ultimate price for a spousal partner choosing to remain in a relationship/marriage with an abusive partner, despite warnings and pleadings from relatives and friends. Then, the next day, a mother confessed to beating her six-year-old child with a large, heavy piece of wood then dumping the unconscious child in a nearby swamp because she claimed that the child had disobeyed her instruction not to “run around and get dirty.”
The news report related that a neighbour, Sabita Ramcharitar, told reporters that “the mother constantly beats and ill-treats the child” and that “neighbours recall hearing the child cry almost daily, but would be fearful to speak to the mother since she would verbally abuse them.” She added: “The lil child have [sic] to do everything for herself, and if she can’t do it properly, the mother would haice (lift) her and lick her down; sometimes take wood and lash the child, sometimes even cuff the child in her head and back and face and when the child cry, she would tell the child to shut yo mouth before I give you more.” The six-year-old suffered a fractured skull and had two cuts on her forehead from the beating. The grandparents, the neighbours, the father were all aware of the brutalisation of this baby and did not intervene in any way to protect her.
One can recall the abuse and murder of 16-yr-old Neesa Gopaul at the hands of her own mother and stepfather. Once again, when neighbours and teachers could have made a difference and thus avert an ultimate catastrophe, they did not act upon signals of danger and distress On October 12, John Blanchard reportedly hacked his three children with two knives while they were asleep at their house at Soesdyke, East Bank Demerara. Two of the children died that night while the third succumbed a few days later. Neighbours heard one of the girls crying out “daddy, how you could do this to we?” This plea was ignored by the neighbour who thought that the child was merely receiving a thrashing from her father – merely, as if that was justification for ignoring a potentially harmful situation for a child. Balica Romana George, aged 10; Joy Millicent Blanchard, aged six; and Daniel John Blanchard, aged four, died at the hands of their own fathers.
Their aunt, Dev Ann Simon said that they did not know of her older sister’s ordeal with an abusive husband, until she broke down after the funeral and told them of her years of misery with a man whose jealousy often led him to stuff cloth in her mouth, lock the bedroom door, and beat her badly. According to Onika’s relatives, one of John’s close relatives was always creating strife between the couple by telling John untruthful stories about his wife, which led to him abusing her. One father in the USA inserted a micro listening device in his child’s plaited hair after his normally sunny-natured little daughter showed distress and refused to go to school. He was shocked when he heard the abusive language and the accompanying sounds of slaps and screams of the little children. According to Wikipedia, child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.
The World Health Organisation reports that international studies reveal that nearly three in four children aged two to four years regularly suffer physical punishment and/or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers, and one in five women and one in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child; and that every year, there are an estimated 40 150 homicide deaths in children under 18 years of age. Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines child abuse thus: “Child abuse and neglect are serious public health problems and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that can have long-term impact on health and wellbeing.”
The appalling fact is that persons who witness instances of child abuse rarely intervene to save the innocent victim because it seems that inhumane acts against children have become the norm.