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Major increase in child neglect

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With the territory already grappling with a number of other child abuse cases, the Social Development Department is reporting a 68 percent increase in the number of children being neglected.

According to the Department, 25 cases of child neglect were reported in the year 2015, compared to 42 last year.

Males are more often neglected. Last year, for example, 24 males were neglected, and 18 females.

The Social Development Department said more persons – especially educators – are coming forward to report child neglect.

In relation to other types of abuse, 36 cases of sexual abuse were reported in 2015, compared to 26 last year.

There was one reported case of verbal abuse in 2015, and four last year.

As it relates to physical abuse, the government recorded 25 cases in 2015, and 24 last year.

Commenting on the figures, social worker Laurel Freeman said there is an urgent need for residents to advocate for the protection of children as the territory gets ready to observe Child Abuse Prevention and Autism Awareness month in April.

Freeman wants everyone to use the special observance in April to send a message of intolerance towards violence against children.

She said residents should feel empowered to report any suspected occurrence.

Freeman added that the Department has increased its awareness efforts by offering a wider variety of services to families within the British Virgin Islands.

During the month of April, the the Social Development Department will launch a ‘Real Men’ campaign, which aims to reinforce positive imagery of men with their families in the community. Officers from the Department will also visit schools to provide information and awareness about child abuse.

The month of activities will culminate with residents being invited to wear any shade of blue or a ‘Break the Silence’ T-shirt for “Wear Blue Day” to show support for children who have been abused.

Persons are also encouraged to post pictures of themselves wearing blue for the “Wear Blue Day” to the ‘Break the Silence VI’ Facebook page or use the hashtag ‘#Breakthesilence’ or ‘#btsVI’.

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