Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health/Social Development
Minister for Health and Social Development the Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton has expressed concern about the number of cases of physical, sexual, neglect and emotional abuse recorded by the Social Department.
The Minister, who was addressing a training workshop on child rights and the Child Protection Protocol earlier this week, stated that of particular concern is the fact that since 2010 the number of sexual abuse cases has been the leading type of abuse in the Territory.
“While the number of reported cases has fluctuated over the years, we have noticed that the overall total number of cases decreased from 64 in 2010 to 38 in 2011. In 2012, the cases fell to 21, then increased to 25 in 2013 and 31 in 2014” the Minister said.
Honourable Skelton also underscored the importance of protecting children which he referred to as our ‘most treasured assets.’
“All of us have a responsibility to safeguard the Territory’s children,” he said, adding, “Children have a right to be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation including sexual abuse while in the care of parents, legal guardians or other persons who are responsible for the care of the child.”
Minister Skelton said Government remains committed towards protecting the Territory’s children. “Just last year we passed landmark legislation - the Status of Children Act, 2014, which means that all children born in this Territory are of equal status and that the discriminatory term of illegitimate no longer exists in our laws,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Development Mrs. Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe said she was pleased with the attendance at all of the sessions and the level of interaction among participants. She stated that one of the key messages during the week was that every decision must be made in the best interest of the child.
Mrs Stoutt- Igwe said, “Safeguarding children is everyone’s business. The fight to protect the Territory’s children will not end this week. Stakeholders must continue to advocate to ensure that there is zero tolerance for child abuse in the Virgin Islands.”
Mrs Stoutt-Igwe urged the participants to continue to break the silence on all forms of abuse, especially child sexual abuse since this has been the leading type for the past three years. She also stressed the need for continued support and rehabilitation for the victims of child abuse.
She further stated that the Ministry of Health and Social Development looks forward towards continued working relations with the primary stakeholders to chart the way forward to ensure that the children of the Territory are protected and secure.
The week’s training was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Development, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and featured training for various stakeholders in an effort to promote the community’s role as mandatory reporters.
The training sessions featured the role of youth and children’s leaders, education officials, health care providers, the role of the media, law enforcement and social service providers and the plan of action for the way forward.
On October 1, 2014 the Ministry of Health and Social Development signed the Child Protection Protocol, a systematic guideline for coordinated actions in child abuse/neglect prevention, reporting, investigation and management. The Virgin Islands is now among three other Caribbean countries that UNICEF oversees that have received Cabinet’s approval of their Child Protection Protocol.