After two videos circulated social media this week showing minors in compromising situations, the Department of Social Services said yesterday that child abuse is a tremendous problem in The Bahamas.
“I don’t know if it’s because of cultural beliefs or whatever, but people often don’t know where the line is between discipline and abuse,” Senior Assistant Director of the Children and Family Division of Social Services Charlamae Fernander said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“That may be based on their own history or experiences, so it’s a work in progress.
“I would like to reiterate that social services and the police cannot do it alone; it is a national issue and it requires a national response from everybody in the community to amend our attitudes and find a [better] way.”
Fernander added that many parents do not know the difference between punishment and discipline.
“Let me mention too, not everybody who creates a child is equipped to parent that child properly,” she said.
“Many of our parents are extremely young and they haven’t gained the skills to deal with children themselves.
“They probably were not given everything they needed in life in terms of emotional support or guidance or discipline, et cetera.
“By discipline, I do not mean punishment, those are two totally different things that many people don’t recognize.
“Punishment means that you do not care if the person learns anything, you just want to strike out and punish them. Discipline is meant to be a teaching method…”
In the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd said police are investigating the circumstances of a recent viral video in which a young girl is being recorded lashing out, screaming and crying.
Assistant Director for Child Care Facilities, Child Protection and School Welfare Unit Cherely Kelly called the videos “disheartening” and confirmed that two videos have been sent to police for investigation.
The first video shows an exchange between a young girl, who is being referred to as “Muffin”, and a woman who is recording her.
The woman behind the camera can be heard telling the little girl to clean the room.
However, the girl, who was in tears, continually refused.
At one point the girl can be heard saying, “Make me clean the room and I don’t care if you record me.”
At the end of the video, the girl is seen hopping a fence and leaving the property.
In the second video, a high school student in uniform can be seen pulling up her underwear behind a building as a man standing behind her adjusted his pants.
Another man’s voice can be heard off camera telling the girl that she’s been caught and that he wants “some” too.
The girl continued to fix her clothes and attempted to hide her face.
As she and the man walked away, the cameraman followed, threatening to publish the video on social media if he didn’t “get some”.
In these situations, Fernander said the public should not hesitate to report these matters.
“…First of all, let me say that it is not incumbent of members of the public to be able to prove that a child is being abused,” Fernander said.
“The Child Protection Act only requires that they believe that a child is being abused or neglected and then they have a duty to report [it].
“…All you need to do is genuinely believe something is going wrong and then your duty is to report. We will investigate and prove it…”
Kelly said if the investigations are successful, depending on the home situation, the children could be temporarily taken into the custody of social services.
She added that the children in these situations are never at fault, but rather the parents and people recording and publishing these incidents are.
Additionally, Kelly said that there are 24-hour hotlines available to report issues of child abuse and neglect to trained social workers. The numbers to those hotlines are 422-2763 and 322-2763.