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Barriere Bits, Issue #015 Child Abuse: Truths and Reconciliations
August 19, 2008

Welcome to Barriere Bits, the child abuse information e-zine that will provide you with international child abuse information.

In this issue, you'll find child abuse news from:


The Scottish Government plans to offer what is being called "truth and reconciliation" to victims of historical child abuse. According to a government spokesperson, the plan "...will give survivors the chance to speak about their experiences and to help come to terms with the past. It will provide an opportunity to establish the facts, learn from the suffering and use the experience to help us to protect children in the future. We will consult publicly and with survivors of abuse, support organisations and other providers of care on our approach in coming months."

Earlier this year, the government refused to do away with the current statute of limitations (3 years after the abuse victim turns 18). Survivors of historical child abuse are outraged, stating that the government's refusal to abolish the legal time bar and offering instead the "truth and reconciliation" plan is actually a scheme to avoid litigation and the possible resulting payout of millions of pounds in compensation for victims who suffered abuse in state-run homes in the 1960s and prior. The government insists they instead want to encourage child abuse survivors to tell their stories and for abusers to admit their guilt without fear of prosecution.

My Comments: This scheme is offensive to anyone who has ever suffered child abuse at the hands of their carers. I doubt very much that many victims of historical child abuse would partake in such a forum. As for abusers coming forward of their own volition: not going to happen. Abusers are notorious for not accepting responsibility for their actions, even when they are confronted face on by their victims. The Ministers in this Scottish Government are kidding themselves and insulting the survivors when they insist that this plan will go forward. I agree with the stance of many of the victims. The government is essentially trying to avoid paying out hefty compensation packages to child abuse survivors who were left deeply scarred by vicious, cruel and degrading forms of emotional, physical and sexual maltreatment.


According to newly appointed Minister for Children and Youth, Barry Andrews, sweeping changes are required in child protection services to ensure children at risk are identified much earlier. A recent report shows unprecedented levels of child abuse and child neglect: 2300 children were taken into care in 2005 due to neglect, the parents' inability to cope, physical abuse, emotional abuse or sexual abuse. The report reflects a picture of dysfunction in the offices of child protection services, with inadequate resources, including shortages in staff. But Andrews believes the problems will not be resolved by throwing more money into CPS. He believes that greater emphasis must be placed on prevention and that changing the way social workers operate is where the solution lies. Inexperienced workers are placed on the front lines of child protection. These inexperienced workers, some straight out of school, are forced to make life-altering decisions for children and their families without the skill set required for complex care and welfare issues. Andrews believes that the major challenge is likely to be the management of services provided, as opposed to a lack of resources.

My Comments: I believe Minister Andrews is on the right track. Managing human resources in a way that will have experienced social workers making the emergency care type of decisions is critical to the welfare of children and their families, and so is prevention. But I question how it is that he expects an already taxed pool of social workers to suddenly become experienced. If the less experienced workers are to gain experience, they must do so either in the field or be taken under the wing of someone with more experience in the field. But most importantly, I question whether Minister Andrews can obtain the necessary long term financial resources under a political system that has voters going to the poles every five years, but has services operating under annual budgets that demand short term results. Minister Andrews has his work cut out for him if he is to get the government on board with his long term goals. And if he is able to reach his goals without benefit of more funding by strategically shifting human resources, he will be one highly-sought after businessman.


In January 2007, the Office of the Children's Registry was introduced. It was established to receive, record, and store data on the maltreatment of Jamaica's children. Generally, reports received by the Registry are referred to one of two agencies that would launch an investigation. The Registry does not carry out investigations; rather, they log the report, complete an assessment of the report, and then determine where to refer the case. Although the Registry's main purpose is to compile data on child abuse, anyone who suspects or knows of a child being abused is encouraged to make a report to the Registry. Victims can also make reports.

The statistical increase between the first year of operation and the first 6 months of this year are worth mentioning: In the twelve months of 2007, the Registry had 418 reports of child abuse. In the months between January and June of 2008, there were 1592—a near 400% increase in reports, with still 6 months of data left to gather. While child abuse is believed to be on the rise, this extraordinary increase is purportedly due in part to changing attitudes about reporting child abuse and the public's growing confidence that reports will not lead to repercussions against the person making the call. The toll free number for Jamaica's Registry: 1-888-PROTECT (1-888-776-8328).

My Comments: Jamaica's Children's Registry phone number will be added to the list of hotline phone numbers on my various story submission and story archives pages.


Portland, Maine:
The law in Maine mandates doctors, teachers and commercial film developers and photographic print processors (among others) to report any form of child abuse or pornography. State lawmakers are now considering expanding the list to include computer technicians. If the law goes through, these technicians will be required to report to law enforcement officials any child pornography they find. Civil liberties activists are slamming the proposed legislation as an intrusion into innocent people's privacy and a violation of constitutional rights, citing Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizure.

My Comments: While I agree that the potential for civil liberties misuse is present with this proposed expansion of the law, (indeed, the potential for exploitation exists with just about any law, depending on how it's enforced) the civil liberties of one group cannot supersede the rights of another. We owe it to our children to do what we must in order to keep them safe from predators.

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Author Bio

Darlene Barriere is a child abuse survivor, a violence and abuse prevention educator and author of On My Own Terms, A Memoir. She lives in semi-arid Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, John.

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