Diahann Gordon-Harrison – If it is that you have adults who are having their way with children or forcing children in a particular direction … it is something that concerns me.
Karrie Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer
It is becoming a common problem in the tourist capital. A problem no decent mother wants to encounter. The reality at first hits like a hard blow to the stomach for a struggling single mother. Her teenage daughter had been lured into the bedroom of adults for practical lessons in sex.
“The wife lured my daughter into her home by promising to help her with her homework after school, as well as lunch money for school,” the distraught mother told The Sunday Gleaner by telephone.
“In the end, she took her into her bedroom where her husband was waiting and together they told her that she would have to have sex to repay them for their kindness,” added the mother who refused to give her name.
She said when she discovered what had happened to her underage daughter her first response was to confront the couple before reporting the matter to the police. But then she was given an offer she “could not refuse”.
“I am a single mother of four children. I earn minimum wage so although I know that what these people did to my daughter was wrong, I am not going to go to the police because they offered me money for my silence and I already accepted,” said the mother.
While The Sunday Gleaner was unable to confirm that story, sources on the streets have claimed that the practice of adults enticing underage children into their bedrooms is taking root in Montego Bay, St James.
“That is a new twist on an old problem … we have received reports, albeit not anything that points to a specific individual, but generic reports that there is a practice within certain sections of the upper echelons of society who recruit street boys,” Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison told The Sunday Gleaner.
“I am extremely concerned,” continued Gordon-Harrison, “because if it is that you have adults who are having their way with children or forcing children in a particular direction, particularly where it has to do with sexual immorality and inappropriate exposure, it is something that concerns me and as Children’s Advocate.
“It is my responsibility as mandated by Parliament to protect the best interest and the rights of children.”
The Sunday Gleaner sources allege that the practice of inviting children into adult bedrooms is fast becoming a way of life in many upscale communities in the city.
“Sometimes the young people who go into these things do not know what they are going into.
“Some do (it) because they want to get the money, and for others, it is the parents who collect the money,” said Carla Ledgister, head of the Western Regional Parish AIDS Associations.
“To the best of my knowledge, it happens mostly to girls, but we have a few (reports) that it is happening to boys also … normally, what we are getting to understand is that some start as early as age 11, and most times after they pass the age of 15 there’s no longer an interest (from the adults).”
In acknowledging that the issue is an “open secret”, Ledgister told The Sunday Gleaner that married women who facilitate these acts usually suffer from self-esteem issues.
According to Ledgister, the low self-esteem leaves them insecure and willing to do whatever it takes to earn their husbands’ approval.
“Women that do these things are trying to keep their men at home,” said Ledgister.
“They are the ones who are able to screen the girls that come into the bedroom, but of course, the man would already have to have a sick intention and the woman is aware that he likes young girls, so she normally don’t carry girls she believes would become a risk to her relationship.”
While Deputy Superintendent of Police Veronica Gilzeane, head of Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), declared ignorance of the practice, another senior member of the police force source admitted to hearing of the practice.
“I have not heard of anything like that happening, but if something like this is happening then this is very serious and needs immediate attention,” said Gilzeane.
“It needs to be reported on for you to address it … we would have to go on a serious education drive to let people know that this should not be happening to young girls, they should not be used as pawns for nobody, whether rich and famous or otherwise.
“Affected persons need not be fearful to come and report it because it will be invested and dealt with, because it’s really about the law,” added Gilzeane.
However, the police source said information on the practice had come to her second-hand.
“I have heard of a case where a stepdaughter was being pressured for sex, so the wife went out and try to find any young girls for her husband as a way of getting him to leave her daughter,” said the source who asked not to be named.
In the meantime, Rosalee Gage-Grey, acting head of the Child Development Agency (CDA), admitted to anecdotal reports of this practice.
However, she noted that in the absence of official reports, the CDA is unable to act.
“We wouldn’t be able to act unless we know for sure. As a part of our community outreach, we do have officers who go into schools to do presentations that alerts the children to their rights so they understand and can make appropriate choices.
“We believe that if children are provided with information then they will make the right choices,” said Gage-Grey.
The ability of the CDA and the police to move against the perpetrators is further hampered by the country’s ‘anti-informer culture’ where persons are afraid to provide information to the authorities.
“They don’t want to come forward because if they present a case and it has to go to court, then they will have to come forward and they don’t want anybody to say they are an informer,” noted Ledgister.
“It’s about my own self-preservation and fear of life … most times the persons involved are financially stable, they have money, they are all right, and the other thing is unless I am able to catch a picture of you in the act it’s my word against yours.”
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