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In Guyana, the Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) is an innovative addition to the services of the Childcare and Protection Agency (CPA) which commenced under the leadership of the now retired CPA Director in partnership with ChildLinK in 2014. The efficiency and effectiveness of the CAC rest largely on the collaboration of several key stakeholders, inclusive of the Guyana Police Force, Judiciary, Ministry of Health, and local not for profit organizations who manage the operations of the CACs across the ten administrative regions. Key to the success of the CAC services is confidentiality and maintaining the best interest of the child. ChildLinK is currently delivering CAC services in six administrative regions in Guyana.
In the current case of sexual abuse allegations against a Government Minister, we wish to clearly outline the role of ChildLinK as part of the investigative apparatus. The various disclosures that have been made regarding this young woman’s posture and position on this matter are regrettable and none can be attributed to ChildLinK including her last statements. While we would have preferred to maintain our usual and resolute discreet position in this case, we are constrained to respond to the concerns of the public regarding ChildLinK’s role in this matter. First, we wish to categorically distance ChildLinK from any actual or perceived involvement in any alleged harassment, fatigue or frustration of this young woman’s effort at justice.
The confidential nature of the CAC is fully understood by ChildLinK and has never been in question. We have observed all protocols with key stakeholders requiring the services of the CAC over the years and to date have never breached this practice. We understand the gravity of this current case and the immense mental stress this child has and continues to endure. This places a greater responsibility on ChildLinK to respect her dignity and that of every child who participates in our programme. Over the years, ChildLinK’s professional practice including our work in the CACs has been consistent and respected by all stakeholders. We have provided our services with integrity and the critical work of others involved in providing CAC services has been respected by ChildLinK. The accusation of leakages in this current case is troubling, ChildLinK maintains that it has acted professionally in all of its involvement in this case.
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A Guyanese society where every child has the right to grow up in a safe and secure family and community
On June 30th , the CPA and Police requested the Georgetown-based CAC to conduct a forensic interview to complete the investigation. They raised concerns on the apparent breaches of protocols. Shortly into the interview the child brought to the attention of the CAC staff that she had already given a statement on the said morning of no further action. The CAC team immediately wrapped up the interview and did not proceed with any questions. No further statements were taken.
Over the past almost nine years, the CACs have conducted more than 4000 forensic interviews. These statements were submitted to the relevant authorities to decide on prosecution. The delayed prosecution has often times resulted in children withdrawing their reports. In cases where children withdraw from the process, it is important that they receive significant psychosocial and legal support to ensure that they clearly understand the legal process. Children who withdrew have expressed feeling pressured and don’t wish to be publicly reminded of the abuse, among other concerns. We at ChildLinK believe that far too many responsibilities rest on the victims to provide the evidence of this crime. Therefore, all stakeholders should work assiduously in the best interest of the child and for the child’s safety and to stop the systemic abuse against victims.
The operations of the Child Advocacy Centres (CAC) are a global model for responding to the critical concerns of sexual abuse perpetrated against children and young people. The CAC is an international best practice and an evidence-based approach that many countries in the developed and developing world are utilizing collaboratively with their local NGO partners to provide a more comprehensive response to children who report cases of sexual abuse.