It was a shocking admission made with earnestness.
A group of 11 teenagers in Arnett Gardens, when asked to say how they felt about children being raped, said they would rather commit suicide than live with the trauma of such an experience.
The children, aged 12 to 18, participated in a Jamaica Observer/Rise Life Management session conducted in partnership with the Trench Town Development Committee in a section of the community called Mexico last Thursday.
Danelle Warren, 13, said based on news stories highlighting girls being defiled, it has become clear to her that other girls being abused isn’t far-fetched.
“I have a family member who got raped by five men when she was 12, and she was traumatised. So my mother doesn’t want that to happen to me and I don’t want that to happen to me. I am afraid about it,” the Meadowbrook High School student told the Sunday Observer.
“The adults who are raping children should stop it because they are traumatising the children. Leave the children alone so they can live their lives without trauma or fear,” she charged.
While a Tarrant High School student hopes she will never hear another story of juveniles being molested, 14-year-old Gabrielle Cooke is adamant that she will be disappointed yet again.
“It is not going to stop, because you can’t stop a big man from doing something like that, but I want them to stop raping children. Get away from here!,” the girl said.
Everton Levy, 17, also of Tarrant, urged abusers to allow Jamaican youth to fully develop and exist in peace without having to worry about abuse.
“The grown men should stop abusing the young children. We should not experience that. A young man at my age should not be seeing those things on the news and picturing that it is happening to us. That should stop happening in Jamaica,” the youngster insisted.
The Tarrant High School student said the news of those incidents had left him perturbed. One such incident surrounds that of 40-year-old Sheridan Shepherd in St Mary.
Shepherd was sentenced to 17 years and 11 months in prison back in February and is eligible for parole after 12 years. The sentence was handed down by Supreme Court Judge Simone Wolfe-Reece Friday afternoon.
Shepherd had pleaded guilty to six counts of buggery, five counts of indecent assault, and one count of grievous sexual assault.
He was arrested and charged in June 2021, following reports that he sexually assaulted several minors between six and 12 years old.
“It makes me feel a way in myself, to know that I am a man and men that are grown and older than me are doing those things, I would kill myself. It would affect me in the long run because to know that those things happened, it would weigh on my mind. I would just think about it every day. I couldn’t live with that,” Levy told the Sunday Observer.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that governments must protect children from violence, abuse, and being neglected by anyone who looks after them.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the majority of rape victims are between 10-17 years old. Survey data from 2016 show that in Jamaica about two out of 10 adolescents girls 15-19 years old have been subjected to sexual violence, and one out of 10 adolescent girls have been forced to have intercourse in her lifetime.
With a stern look on his face, 15-year-old Lascelles Page of Wolmer’s Boys’ School related that child abuse discussions “make me feel disgusted”.
Like Warren, he carries the experience of a relative who was abused.
“Someone very close to me was a victim as well. I don’t like seeing it. I think that is very, very sad. People like that need mental health and counselling and therapy to fix themselves. So what people like that should do instead of taking action on children is to go and seek help for themselves. They probably know it is wrong, but they do it anyway,” he related.
“If that happens to me”, he continued, “self-harm would be a possibility.”
“I don’t know what will happen. All I know is that it would give me trauma, PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and all of that. When it happened to the person I know, she completely turned off. She shut down completely. She started to do worse in school, act out, and all of that.
“Knowing that, I can say if something like that happened to me, I would not be okay mentally and would probably have suicidal thoughts. It would mess me up for the rest of my life. They should just leave people alone.”
Kingston High School student, 13-year-old Deno Griffiths agreed, saying, “It would affect me a whole lot. I know somebody who that happened to before. When I watch the news and see things like that happening to children, It make me feel a way. It makes me remember what happened to the person that I know. I would rather die.”
Last Tuesday a seven year-old girl was kidnapped, beaten, and raped in Fellowship Hall, St Mary. The girl was rescued by a young boy who found her lying under a mango tree in the community nine hours after she left home for school.
Kibee Smith, 13, told the Sunday Observer that he hopes such a situation doesn’t show up at his door.
“It makes me feel bad in myself. I would not want that to happen to me or any of my family or my niece and nephew. So I want them to stop doing that, although I know they wouldn’t stop, because some of them are mad in the head. They are sick, so they are not going to want to stop do it,” the Kingston High School boy reasoned.
“And I would feel a way in myself to know that a man raped me. It would flash in my head every time and I would want to kill myself. They should stop raping the children and leave the little children alone. They know that because the children can’t manage to beat them up they are targeting them.”