UNICEF addresses child sexual abuse as a global concern


We know that child sexual abuse is a problem around the world, but a report released Saturday by UNICEF – the United Nations Children's Fund – sheds new light on just how difficult it is to combat the problem in other countries. 

According to the report, sexual violence against children in the Caribbean not only is underreported, but it also is often accepted as a cultural norm. 

“A study in Jamaica indicated that men often believe they have a right to engage in sex with girls under their care, while children in Guyana reported believing that sexual violence can be blamed on a victim’s clothing,” the report said. “Sexual violence against boys is especially underreported, and in some countries, is not even recognized as a crime.

Of course, despite the fact that it is so widely accepted, sexual abuse has the same devastating results on its victims. The consequences are both physical and psychological, and may last a lifetime. It is also one of the leading contributors to HIV infections, and explains why this area has one of the world's highest rates in AIDS and HIV infection. Adding to the problem, mothers of sexually abused children are reluctant to seek help; many were sexually abused themselves, and may try covering up the abuse so the child doesn't experience that same sense of shame.

UNICEF is working to take the "Teddy Bear Campaign," which was developed last year by the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad and Tobago, to other countries in the Caribbean. The campaign is designed to urge government and non-government partners to work together to break the silence and protect children from sexual abuse. 

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