The Ministry of Social Development has “just recently” completed a National Child Abuse Protocol that will address the need for children in The Bahamas who are traumatised by abuse to become “a corporate responsibility, shared across statutory and non-statutory agencies,” Minister of State for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner said Thursday, April 18, 2008.

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of a one-day workshop on “The Traumatized Child” held at the School of Nursing, Grosvenor Close Campus, as part of National Child Protection Month, Mrs. Butler-Turner said child abuse is “very real” in The Bahamas.

Citing child abuse statistics for 2007 that were compiled by the Children and Family Services Division of the Department of Social Services, Mrs. Butler-Turner said there were almost 1,600 cases of child abuse reported in The Bahamas.

Child neglect was the leading form of abuse with 672 reported cases, followed by physical abuse (356), child sexual abuse (286), care and protection (159), abandonment (24), incest (21), verbal/emotional abuse (20) and others at 44 for a total of 1,582 cases.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said the situation becomes even more vexing “when one realises that only one-third of the cases of child abuse are reported.”

“Child abuse can destroy the very soul of a child and child sexual abuse is probably one of the best kept secrets,” Mrs. Butler-Turner said. “Every day there is one child who experiences one of the many forms of abuses (while) many children suffer repeated physical abuse at the hands of their parents or guardians under the guise of discipline.

“Educating our children and adults on the various forms of abuse is critical (as) too often, an abused child is not brought to the authorities when they disclose that they have been violated to a family member.”

Mrs. Butler-Turner said the National Child Abuse Protocol will ensure that there is an effective coordination and partnership process that will include caregivers and service users.

“We must not allow any child to fall through the cracks,” Mrs. Butler-Turner said. “Our network must be cohesive. We must be sensitive to the uniqueness of each individual case. We must further ensure that all children have access to the proper treatment and not allow parents or guardians to disregard the necessity of treatment following trauma.”

Minister Butler-Turner said there is a tendency for parents or guardians to underestimate the need for counseling which, she said, is a key component in the recovery of abused or traumatised children.

“Some guardians for example, feel that the counseling sessions serve to keep the traumatic event fresh in the mind of the child because they do not fully understand what the process is about,” Mrs. Butler-Turner said. “It is our role to ensure that they understand the necessity of therapy for that child.”