COVID-19’s shuttering of schools has offered respite to an emotionally scarred teen who was pulled from classes on February 18 when she was reportedly held down by three boys who took turns sexually assaulting her.
The teen’s mother is appealing for swift counselling for her daughter, a usually quiet child who she said is melting away in silence.
The incident occurred during lunchtime inside a classroom at a Clarendon high school.
The child’s mother has expressed disgust at the response of school officials, who she believes handled the situation poorly.
The identities of the child and mother have been withheld because the alleged victim is a minor. The school and community have also not been named.
As our news team sat down with the mother on her veranda recently, she disclosed her frustration with officialdom.
The mother denounced the school authorities, including the guidance counsellor and the nurse, for not immediately alerting her to the incident and failing to take her child to see a doctor.
“They wait until school over to call me, and it happened at lunchtime. I had to take her to the doctor … ,” said the mother, adding that the principal had since apologised for the school’s inaction.
She said that she took her child to see a doctor and got a medical certificate, copies of which she presented to the school and the police.
The police were also accused of dragging their feet in the initial stages of the investigation.
Her face a portrait of pain, the girl’s mother said that she fully understands her daughter’s distress because she, too, was a victim of rape as a teenager.
Schools nationwide were ordered shut shortly after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in Jamaica on March 10, and classes have been called off until after the Easter holidays. But the teenager is understood to be afraid of returning to school having been the target of jeers since the incident.
“Mi go up there on the Thursday with my daughter and the entire school come down and they were pointing and saying, ‘See the girl deh weh the boy dem rape,’ and she say she don’t want to go back,” the mother told the media.
The parent is adamant her daughter is terrified of returning to school.
That fear comes amid the recent revelation by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency that there were 2,623 cases of sexual abuse against children in 2019, an increase of 276, or 12 per cent, over the previous year, when 2,347 cases were reported.
“The boys dem tell her that if she talk or anything, dem a go kill her, and she nah talk because even some girls, she said, tell the boys to rape her,” the girl’s mom added.
Pressed on the matter, the Clarendon school principal declined comment saing “At this point in time, I rather not say anything.”
But some residents in the area have accused the school administration of institutional secrecy that spans several years. That accusation was denied by the principal.
“I heard about the incident by my granddaughter. But that’s what they always do, try to cover up,” an elderly woman said.
“My granddaughter (a past student) got pregnant over there when she was 15. She dropped out of school. She is now 18 with two children. Is a whole heap of 15-year-olds getting pregnant over there,” the woman added.
Charges were eventually laid.
Though an investigation is still underway, the girl’s mother still has concerns.
“Because the school never acted immediately, no rape kit was not done. The doctor only has a medical report from when I took her to doctor.
It’s hard, and when you don’t have it for yourself, it’s rough. Me feel out of this world like sometimes I want to give up,” she said.
The community police also declined comment.