'Wrong is wrong'
With increasingly louder condemnation of intimate relationships involving adults and children in recent weeks, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison is urging Jamaicans to report every suspected case of these relationships.
Gordon-Harrison has also warned that people who are aware of the adult/child relationships and do not report that could find themselves in trouble with the law.
“I would encourage parents to take the bull by the horns and not wait on the child to agree before you move forward, because wrong is wrong. Sometimes a warning is not enough, [and] you have to take drastic measures,” said Gordon-Harrison as she responded to reports of a 14-year-old girl murdered recently allegedly by a 20-year-old with whom she might have been in a relationship.
“This was a prime case for police involvement because it means that crime was being committed with your knowledge and this crime involved your child as victim,” declared Gordon- Harrison during an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
“Parents do have a responsibility, in fact the primary responsibility of all parents is to ensure that they’re bringing up their children properly and to ensure that they are exposing their children to situations that would lead them to make good decisions and also to guide them. That’s [their] full-time job and commitment,” added the children’s advocate.
She pointed out that with allegations of a child being involved in an intimate relationship with an adult there should be a fulsome investigation to determine who knew what, when and who did what with the information that they had.
“Because it’s an offence under the Child Care and Protection Act that if you have information that a child is in an inappropriate or vulnerable circumstances whereby harm could come to that child, there is an obligation to make a report. Failure to report, exposes an individual who has that knowledge to criminal prosecution,” said Gordon-Harrison.
Earlier this week news broke of the death of 14-year-old Danesha Cooper from stab wounds believed to be inflicted by a 20-year-old, who it is claimed she was in a relationship with.
“I’m very angry about it, very concerned about it, and would ask that we all pull up our straps as a society to ensure that when we see things like these unfolding we raise the alarm,” Gordon-Harrison said,.
“This is one more too many as far as I’m concerned. It really goes back to the fundamentals of the type of relationships that our children get involved in and also the level of responsibility among adults in the society. There is a degree of inappropriateness with a 14-year-old being intimately involved with a [20-year-old].”
Gordon-Harrison underscored that if parents are under strain and are in need of support, they have the option of reaching out to the National Parenting Support Commission where they will receive guidance on how to deal with vulnerable children.
“As a community of parents, we need to ask for support when we need it. It’s a shared responsibility with the primary responsibility resting with the parents and to recognise when they are not doing as well, to get support so that they can get back on track,” Gordon-Harrison stated.
She explained that the Sexual Offences Act, 2009, states that it is illegal for a person to have sexual intercourse with someone who is under the age of 16 years, and that, where the person charged with an offence he or she is liable upon conviction in a Circuit Court to imprisonment for life, or such other term as the court considers appropriate, not being less than 15 years.