77.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, April 20, 2024


I am appalled that someone on the island of St. John horrendously tortured and killed a cat. It is great that a reward, probably never to be awarded, was offered so quickly.
I doubt that anyone will ever collect the reward. Why? Because people who torture and kill animals usually do so without a witness. It is, in all probability, the sick solo action of a mind so warped that you don't ever want to meet that person on a dark street.
We need to be worried about the he or she who committed this heinous act, as many violent child and adult offenders have a history of first plying their trade on animals.
Despite everything I have just written, I remain most concerned about the epidemic of sexual abuse of children in the Virgin Islands. I am worried that one cat death has perhaps engendered more public outcry than countless cases of sexual abuse of children.
We need to be aware that the cases that we see in the newspapers are only those that are reported on the police blotter, or where an arrest has been made. There are countless others where, for one reason or another, the cases have not been seen or heard about by the general public.
Data from the Department of Human Services shows that they received 25 reported cases of sexual abuse of children from Oct. 1, 1998, to now, a portion of which have received media attention.
What outcry are we hearing about this? Only that which comes from people truly dedicated to the prevention, education and treatment of child victims, such as Clema Lewis of the St. Croix Women's Coalition, Dilsa Capdeville of KidsCount, Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert and others, but you get my point: We don't usually hear a public outcry from the John or Jane Does of the world.
Is it that we have become desensitized to the violence and brutality perpetrated against our children? Is it that cruelty to animals elicits stronger responsorial emotions than stealing a child's childhood away from him or her? I don't know, but it worries me a lot.
Fortunately, we now have a strong multi-disciplinary approach to child abuse in the Virgin Islands that has been achieved through many meetings of staff from the Health, Human Services, Police and Education departments and the nonprofit community. This approach trains staff to make them proficient in detecting these cases. It also makes it easier on children and tries to avoid their being victimized a second time.
We wonder many times about the increasing sexuality and early teen pregnancies of our children. Essentially, much of this must be placed on the doorstep of those who sexually abuse children. Countless studies have shown that early promiscuity may often result from children having been sexually abused. On the other side, studies also show that many sexual child predators have themselves been victims of child sexual abuse.
Given all the data and studies on this matter, it is crystal clear that education and prevention are key to eradicating this crime that brings about the destruction of the innocence of our children. Public outcry is needed, and must be loud and vocal, to make sure that programs that can do this are adequately funded and staffed or we will not change this devastating phenomenon.
On behalf of all children, I ask you to advocate for the funding needed for the programs which can help these children and their families. Your voice (and monetary contribution) counts! Our children deserve not to be violated. They deserve to grow and mature with their innocence intact.
Editor's note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. You can send comments to her on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see addressed at source@viaccess.net

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