A senior officer at the Royal Bahamas Police Force in Grand Bahama is warning that any abuse against a minor/child must be reported to the relevant authorities, and that failure to do so is an offence.
Inspector Latoya Major-Rolle, the officer in charge of the Sexual Offences Unit at the Criminal Investigation Department, noted that children of all ages can be victims of abuse, including neglect, abandonment, physical and sexual assaults.
She stated that there are situations where adults sometimes decide not to involve the authorities.
“Once an abuse… is brought to your attention, you must report it to the relevant authorities,” she stressed, referring to the Child Protection Act, Section 63.
“As law enforcement officers, we often encountered situations where the adult finds it necessary or convenient to be the judge and jury with child abuse matters. They work the issue out to appease their satisfaction without seeking to involve the relevant authorities. This will not be tolerated,” she stated.
Inspector Rolle also warned that child abusers will be pursued by the police. “We wish to send a strong and firm warning to men and women who choose to prey on minors…, we will spare no rod with bringing offenders to justice,” she stressed.
During a press conference at Police Headquarters on Monday, the officer shared important tips concerning the safety of minors.
“Because of the pandemic we are not able to go out there and offer tips to parents and we thought it fitting to share information in the media,” she said.
Although unable to disclose statistics on child sexual abuse, Inspector Rolle said persons who neglect their children and fail to report sexual abuse against minors can be charged with an offense under the Children Protection Act and Sexual Offences Act, respectively.
Inspector Rolle shared four approaches that parents/guardians, police officers, social workers, school officials, and other persons should adopt to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their children: build relationships and trust with children; educate them on right and wrong; monitor their children; and the involvement of network/support groups.
She said developing a bond with children is vital so they are comfortable seeking guidance on issues and challenges they are facing.
The officer said parents must also talk openly with children.
“Sex education for some reason is always the most challenging topic for a parent to discuss, but this is indeed vital as children of all ages are victims of various types of sexual assaults,” she explained.
Monitoring children’s activities is another important aspect, said Insp Rolle. She noted checking a child’s electronic devices, knowing who they hang out with, when they are leaving home and with whom, are all things parents should be doing.
“Confirm who they are going with, how they are to be transported — do not allow your children to make plans on their own and you don’t follow up,” she said.
Parents should also check during the night, she said, to ensure their home is properly secured and check on their children.
Lastly, Insp Rolle said networking between the Police Department and Social Services and other agencies is important when dealing with matters involving minors.
In cases where a child or young person is a victim of crime, she indicated that a social worker/police officer would interview the victim with or without the parent being present, depending on the circumstances.
About rape cases, Insp Rolle said that victims of sexual assaults should report the matter to the police so it could be investigated.
She noted that even though there is no statute of limitations on rape, victims should come forward and report the matter within 72 hours of the incident.
“It is good if we catch it in the initial stages because protocols must be followed concerning victims of sexual assault, such as hospital examination and collection of samples. After three days, we won’t be able to get any evidence so it would be good if victims can come to us before 72 hours expires,” she said.