Minister of Social Services Frankie Campbell said yesterday that at least 382 incidents of child abuse were reported between January 2020 and February 2021.
“I take comfort in one aspect of that reporting, which is at least 116 of those cases have been reported through our hotlines,” said Campbell in a communication to Parliament.
According to the Ministry of Social Services, 2,442 cases of child abuse were reported between 2015 and 2018.
The ministry said there were 562 cases of physical abuse, 600 cases of sexual abuse, 1,070 cases of neglect, 53 cases of abandonment, 96 cases of incest, 30 cases of verbal abuse and 31 cases of emotional abuse.
Statistics for 2019 were not readily available.
Campbell said yesterday that Bahamians and residents must not remain silent on this issue.
“Child abuse prevention will begin with us when we begin to speak out against the physical abuse of children,” he said.
“Sadly, many witness the anguished cries but say nothing. They are aware of the slapping, the burns, the punching. They see the welts and the bruises but view this action as a parent’s right to treat their child in whatever manner they see fit.
“Moreover, they condone the physical punishment as the only effective means of discipline and feel the more severe the punishment, the better and more effective it is. After all, some of them say, ‘it made me a better person and I didn’t die’.
“Child abuse prevention has to begin with us if we know a child is being sexually abused by a relative, a stranger, a church member or anyone else for that matter. We dare not sit idly by and allow a child’s life to forever be changed.
“We can stop the abuse.”
The minister called on Bahamians and residents to act and report suspected incidents of child abuse.
“Many people are aware that child abuse is against the law, but that means nothing if we don’t speak out against it,” he said.
“We must become involved by preventing and reporting it. Child protection begins with us, one voice at a time, one action at a time.”
He noted that abuse comes in all forms, including physical, sexual and emotional.
Campbell also pointed to neglect.
“We condone abuse when we know that a child is being neglected due to lack of adequate supervision by a parent or guardian who requires the eldest child, a 10-year-old daughter, to collect her two younger siblings from school, ensure that they eat, clean the home, complete homework and then prepare the uniforms for the next day,” he said.
Campbell said it is likely that the 10-year-old will not get to bed before 10 p.m. and then wake up tired and sleep in class.
This, he said, will likely lead to poor grades and discipline from the parent.
The minister said anyone wishing to report an incident of child abuse may contact the child abuse hotline at 397-2550, 422-2763 or 322-2763.