It is just over two months into 2019 and there have been some 400 reports of child abuse cases so far.
This was revealed by Country Representative of UNICEF Guyana, Sylvie Fouet, who said the statistics are alarming.
“Violence against children, just to let you know that in Guyana, is really at an alarming rate and since the beginning of 2019, we already have 400 cases being reported,” Fouet said, while adding that last year there was a total of one thousand cases. She further noted too that this number had even gone as high as three thousand cases at one point.
Fouet made this disclosure on Tuesday when the University of Guyana teamed with the Judiciary and UNICEF Guyana to launch a Forensic Psychology and Sexual Offences Special Training Series.
According to the UNICEF official, this link between law and science will go a long way in changing the way Guyana responds to and documents child abuse cases as well as sexual violence in general.
The Forensic Psychology and Sexual Offences Special Training Series is an 8-module course being offered by UG.
Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Emanuel Cummings, drew attention to the significant role forensic psychology and forensic medicine can play in increasing the capacity of the Judiciary in solving crimes and cases. To this end, he went on to note the importance of DNA profiling in solving sexual offences cases.
“The evidence that can be derived from DNA profiling can make or break the outcome of a case… It allows for the comparison or comparing the profile of the perpetrator against the list of other suspects; the likelihood of holding the perpetrator accountable; and the likelihood of preventing future crime since the perpetrator DNA is then added to the database,” he stated.
Dr Cummings noted that this new programme being offered will significantly impact the way sexual offences cases are being solved in the local criminal justice system.
“So the plight focus of this course would provide an excellent foundation for continued education for the Judiciary in various forms of forensic science, including forensic psychology and medical science in an effort to strengthen the justice system by building the capacity for the use and interpretation of a more credible evidence,” the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences posited.
Meanwhile, acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, recognised the impact insensitive treatment has on the victims especially within the criminal justice system.
“The complexities of working with victims [and perpetrators] of sexual violence requires specialised training and intervention on the part of all involved in the process… Therefore, to ensure prompt, adequate and effective court response to needs of justice for both offenders and victims, an intensive approach is needed. That is why were are here today,” Justice Cummings-Edwards stated.
However, the acting Chancellor went on to note too that the personnel working in this field, they also need debriefing programmes to deal with the “vicarious traumas”, hence sustainable skills and capacity are needed.
“We intend to improve our adjudication of sexual offences cases, reduce or eliminate secondary trauma of victims and to adopt a coordinated approach with all stakeholders as well as enhance our awareness of the evidence base knowledge in this direction,” she added.
This new programme, according to Justice Cummings-Edwards, is among the many initiatives the Judiciary is embarking on to enhance the criminal justice system in Guyana. She pointed to the fact that just over one year ago, the sexual offences court was established while noting that plans are afoot to expand this facility to Berbice in about two months, and then to Essequibo.
The UNDP had reported that Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region in the world for women. In fact, Guyana was named second in top three of 10 countries in the world with the highest rate of rape against women and girls in the English-speaking Caribbean.