Call to fight child abuse head-on

Authorities here are being told that if there is a growing issue with child abuse they should not ‘sugar coat’ it, but tackle it head-on.

This advice has come from former Miss Universe and lawyer Wendy Fitzwilliams, who told Barbados TODAY that while she was not aware of specific cases here, if such cases did exist they should be condemned.

Yesterday, Child Care Board chairman Kenneth Knight said the agency took a staggering 13 children away from abusive homes last week alone.

And he indicated that while the estimated 700 cases of child abuse reported every year were frightening, this number did not reflect the true picture.

Former Miss Universe and lawyer Wendy Fitzwilliams
Former Miss Universe and lawyer Wendy Fitzwilliams

“You would know if the Child Care Board received 700 a year, you would know that’s up about four times the actual cases that exist. We do not get all of the actual cases being called in. We get a percentage of the amount. So I think the society itself is concerned and they should be,” Knight stated.

In an interview today Fitzwilliams, who is the mother of a nine-year-old boy, urged authorities to tackle the issue like they have responded to other issues, including HIV and AIDS.

“Anything that is ugly and regressive as opposed to progressive – and child abuse is definitely one of those issues – you can’t sugar coat it. And you have to address it head-on,” said Fitzwilliams.

“I don’t think I am in a position to say what the right fix is for Barbados in that regard, but as someone who studied law here, Barbados has always been ahead of the rest of the region and very proactive in terms of adapting to changes in society generally, and acting relatively swiftly and positively in the best interest of the people.”

Pointing out that Barbados was a leader in the region when it came to the provision of some social services, Fitzwilliams added that the country remained “a little bit ahead of the competition in that regard and progressive, not only in terms of dealing with law, but implementing [and] using it effectively”.

“You are quick to recognize problems and address them. So I hope that the situation with regard to child abuse here will be no different. I expect you to step up and lead the way and lead by example for the rest of us” said the Trinidadian.

“You did it with HIV. You made some really tough, difficult decisions when it was very unsexy to do so at the time, which encouraged and forced the rest of the region to step up. So I hope as it relates to child abuse you will do the same thing.”

Earlier this month church leaders, UNICEF representatives and other stakeholders called for an end to child abuse on the island.

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