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Audio book powers conversation around child abuse, trafficking

Published:Wednesday | May 5, 2021 | 12:32 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer

Identifying child abuse and having ‘the talk’ around it has got much easier with the Caribbean Development Bank-funded book The Tribe - Break the Silence – an illustrated story with CD narration on child sexual abuse.

The book has been described as the ideal teaching-learning tool that can be used in guidance counselling or health and family life education sessions to empower primary-level students on the issue.

Wendy Mullings, education officer for Region Seven, said the audio book will empower primary level students to fight against child sexual abuse.

“A teacher’s guide is also included to help facilitators increase their competence and comfort level to conduct a lesson or session on the sensitive issue of child sexual abuse. The catchy theme song and the vivid illustrations instantly pique students’ interest, encouraging them to be very open to ask questions and discuss their views on child sexual abuse,” Mullings told The Gleaner.

Citing the prevalence of child sexual abuse in Jamaica, administrators of primary schools in Clarendon were encouraged to use The Tribe as a resource aid.

In 2017, each primary school received a hard copy. The coronavirus pandemic, since March 2020, has forced greater reliance on online schooling, with The Tribe now being shared on YouTube link.

Jana and her brother, Rupert Bent III, of KQComics, who expressed gratitude to the Caribbean Development Bank (via the Jamaica Social Investment Fund), said they took the bold step to support the creation of what they call a pioneering product.

The Tribe - Break the Silence is a comic book and video with music, and characters narrated by Jamaica’s top celebrity talent, including Paula Ann Porter, Simone Clarke Cooper, Paul Kastick, Yendi Phillipps, and Chris Daley.

Commenting on the resource, Jana said parents, too, can use it to interact with their children.

“Because of the power imbalance between adults and children, children often feel powerless to object to adults who sexually abuse them, especially when the abuse is being committed by the very adults (relatives, etc.) who are supposed to protect them,” Jana said.

“Children generally are unaware they have every right under the law to protect themselves by following the step-by-step instructions given in the story - scream for help and shout “No! Don’t do that!”, run away from the attacker, and tell a trusted adult of the abuse.”

Data from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency show that reports of sexual abuse against children plummeted to 1,966 in 2020 from 2,644 in 2019. But that fall has largely been attributed to reduced options for disclosure and reporting because COVID-19 restrictions shuttered schools most of 2020.

Physical abuse reports also declined in 2020 - plunging from 2,857 in the prior year to 2,216.

Jana is optimistic that the story will confirm to children that sexual abuse, or even an unsuccessful attempt of violation, is against the law. She also hopes that children will be encouraged to come forward to report on the perpetrators of sexual violence.

Wood Hall Primary principal Elisa Craig had nothing but praise for the resource as she shared that the animated theme used to present the story is relatable to the students, as they tend gravitate to characters with superpowers even in their games, especially at the primary level.

“This presents an easier platform for the teacher to get the message across. What’s even more captivating are the questions strategically placed before the plot thickens. Here, the teacher gets the opportunity to encourage the students to explore the possibilities of what’s ahead. A material such as this is timely,” she said.