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23 January 2021

Child abuse needs real action now

Monday 18 May 2015 | Published in Letters to the Editor

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Dear Editor, Having a known sexual offender in our midst is concerning.

However, at least we know who this person is and can keep close tabs on him. We can teach our children to be careful.

There has been such an uproar, but let’s also create an uproar over our what’s happening right under our noses, day in and day out with our own kids, in our own country.

What about the huge number of Cook Islanders who abuse their children every day and whose names we do not know?

Let me explain. We know from the 2012 Youth Survey (15-24 years), undertaken by the Ministry of Health, that almost a quarter of our young people have experienced forced sex.

Of those who had had been sexually abused 80 per cent of them, that’s right 80 per cent of them knew the person who abused them.

That means it was a father, brother, uncle, grandfather, family friend - someone you thought was trustworthy with your child. This figure sits alongside three other studies done in the Cook Islands that verify the high level of sexual abuse of our youth.

The Men who have Sex with Men Survey (2009) showed us that 44 per cent of those young men between the age of 15 and 24 had been sexually abused (raped or made to perform a sexual act they did not want to do) in the previous six months!

The Youth Survey (2007) showed 27 per cent had experienced forced sex sometime during their lives. The most recent survey (2014) exploring family health and safety and undertaken by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the National Council of Women, also revealed the alarmingly high number of women who have been either physically or sexually abused.

This study, involving women aged between 15 and 64 from 971 families across the nation, revealed 32 per cent had experienced physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Let’s be alarmed by these statistics, let’s be outraged! Let’s do something!

It will take years to turn this around and it needs a multi-pronged strategic plan.

How about we begin teaching young (and old) men to know how to function respectfully in their relationships, and to know how to ask for help should they need it.

How about we teach young people what positive safe relationships look like, and how to achieve them?

Let’s convict those we find doing inappropriate things to our children.

I’d better leave it there, I fear I'm charging forward on my white horse..