SP Department of Human Development aids children of sexual abuse
Friday, February 3rd, 2017
The Department of Human Services in San Pedro Town has been advocating for the protection of children on the island who may be vulnerable to sexual abuse. In an effort to keep the community informed, the Department has come forward to detail their services and what they do to protect sexually abused victims.
The San Pedro Sun caught up with Adan Kay, the Human Development Officer for San Pedro. Kay stated that the Department mostly deals with cases affecting children, working along with their families in preparation to present their cases before the court. “The police will take care of the criminal part, and we deal with the victim. We provide the court with a report detailing the interview we had with the victim,” said Kay. “At the same time we work along with the child by preparing him or her before they go into court. We provide counseling and also psychological assistance throughout the duration of the case and if necessary after it is done, we can also refer the person to these professionals so they can continue the treatment and try to live a normal life.”
Kay mentioned that in many situations, the victim’s family does not want to continue with a case, causing its dismissal. However, even though the police cannot do much if no one is accusing a suspect, according to him, the case is not over. Kay indicated that in those situations, the Department of Human Services takes the responsibility of the case in order to protect the person affected. “We try to work harder with the victim in order to get them to make a statement,” he said. “This process might take some time, because the child might be traumatized; however, we patiently work with the person until we can gain their trust and once they are ready to disclose what happened to them, the case can be re-opened.” He emphasized that any cases that have been dismissed can be re-opened as long as additional evidence is provided.
He recalls that in the past, when parents are not being cooperative and the victim continues to be exposed to abuse, the child is removed. He explained that parents are taken to court and if found guilty of negligence, they can be charged. “We have experienced cases in the past on the island. However, when the parents become aware of how serious the situation is, they start to cooperate,” said Kay
The department of Human Services is not the only one advocating for the protection of children in Belize. The National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) is also heavily on board with a campaign aim to protect their rights. Following a recent leak of sex tapes with alleged under-aged girls on social media, the NCFC issued a press release on January 12th condemning the act, stating that the release of the sex tapes violate Articles 19 and 34 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. These articles state that “Children should be protected from being hurt and mistreated in body or mind, and to be free from all forms of sexual abuses.” The note also mentioned that such actions are considered cyber bullying which can have adverse psychological effects on the participants, leading to depression and suicidal ideation.
Parents are asked to exercise some level of control and scrutiny with regards to what their children do. Also, it is recommended that more time is spent between parents and children in order to build a stronger bond between them. At the same time a call is given to young people to be mindful of the activities they are engaged in, as the negative influences can have lifelong consequences.
The office of the Department of Human Services in San Pedro Town is located on Pescador Drive, Suite #5 upstairs from the Post Office. Opening hours are from 8AM to 5PM Monday to Friday. A few times during the week, the officer might be out on the field; however, appointments can still be made by calling 615-7213.
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