Spotting Sexual Abuse

Last week I had the pleasure of doing a workshop designed at spotting sexual abuse and abusers. This workshop was entitled Protecting God’s Children and was put on by the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission.

Facts About Sexual Abuse

  • Most abuse takes place by people the child knows and trusts and is seldom done by strangers.
  • Most sexual abusers are heterosexuals.
  • Children seldom lie about sexual abuse.
  • Priests abuse children for the same reasons as any other sexual abusers and not because of celibacy.

Warning Signs of a sexual abuse in children;

  • Changes in behaviour, child becomes withdrawn, mood swings, anxiety.
  • Child may become aggressive for no reason.
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss or weight gain.
  • Stop taking time for proper hygiene practices.
  • Sudden decline in school performance.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Unusual interest in sexual matters that are not age appropriate. Regressive behaviour, bed wetting, thumb sucking, etc.

Signs of sexual abusers;

  • They use grooming process to earn the child’s trust. Giving of inappropriate gifts, using a “good guy” approach.
  • They use physical contact. The abuser may touch the child often and inappropriately, each time testing the boundaries of the child.
  • The use of psychology. Befriending the child, giving pro villages the parents may not give.
  • Community – many time abusers are very integrated into the community and is well known by everyone including parents.

Why Don’t Children Tell?

  • They were threatened or bribed by the abuser to keep the abuse a secret.
  • Fear that they will be taken away from their family.
  • Are afraid no one will believe them.
  • The abuser promised gifts or rewards for keeping the secret.
  • Blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being “bad”.
  • Feel too ashamed or embarrassed to tell.
  • Worry about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble.

How do we protect our children?

  • Controlled access – be very careful who has access to the child and for how long.
  • Monitor all programmes – even programmes put on by the church. Drop in unannounced, make sure the events are not in secluded areas and do background checks on persons carrying out programmes with your children.
  • Be aware – listen to what your children tell you, believe what they tell you, be alert to changes in their behaviour.
  • Communicate your concerns – Talk to the person involved and highlight behaviours you are uncomfortable with, talk to a direct supervisor.

These tips are very handy and is the start of the process for recognising sexual abusers but I feel that we as a Caribbean people have to develop our own check-list. Our culture is different from the American culture therefore the classification for detecting a sexual abuser may be somewhat different for our unique society. Although this is a very good start for parents who are unaware we will have to do more research into the Caribbean profile of a sexual abuser.

Children’s Questions About Sex…..

If your 8 year old ask you what is a condom? what will be your answer?

I had a parent who asked me this question sometime ago and I thought this was very interesting because many parents do not know where to begin when their children start asking questions pertaining to sex.
First of all I tell parents do not lie. Long gone are the days that parents are able to lie to their kids about sex. Our children have access to so much more information than we had when we were their age. In my time there was no cell phone, and the Internet was now becoming accessible. The televisions shows and advertisements were still a great deal more G rated than they are now. Things are very different now, because our kids have access to much more information, therefore if parents do not answer their questions then who will?
The answer of who will is the scary part. Many time when parents do not answer their children’s questions they go to their peers for these answers. Their peers may be misinformed and give wrong information. Peers may give too much information to the child causing confusion, more curiosity and sometimes experimentation.
We have to realise that the times have drastically changed from when we were children or teenagers therefore our parenting styles need to change to suit the times. Our children are being exposed to information, especially about sex, at younger and younger ages. Therefore as parents we MUST be the one give the information when they ask. Giving the information means that we ourselves must have the information. As parents we need to do the research in order to answer our children’s questions. There are many books in the library or information from the internet that can be used to give pointers and help parents talk to their children about questions pertaining to sex.
So when an 8 year old asks what is a condom we must have an age appropriate answer. Our child is not a teenager and at 8 years old sometimes there is only so much understanding that takes place. Therefore we do not want to lie but at the same time we must not go too in depth to cause confusion. We must also know our children, because if we know them and we are aware of their thought process we will be able to know what will confuse them, what will make sense to them and how in depth we can take our discussion.
So an ideal answer might be something a man uses to prevent a woman and himself from getting HIV/Sexually transmitted diseases/ and pregnancy. Some children may ask more questions accordingly and we continue to keep the answers age appropriate. At 8 years old we should use the correct biological names when having discussions and keep checking to see if they understand what we are talking about, because sometimes we may be making them more confused.
Let us not get scared when our children start asking questions about sex at a young age. As parents we should get out there and make sure we are informed and answer the questions. Make sure our kids get the information they seek from us first. Keep the communication channel open, we must never tell our children questions pertaining to sex is inappropriate. Let them come and talk to us about it rather than talk to their peers and others who will give them wrong information and misguide our children.
Jenna Samaroo

The New Planet!

Due to air pollution the earth ozone layer is way too thin. Days are getting hotter and hotter. In a couple of days the earth is going to be too hot for humans to survive. N.A.S.A. has a rocker that with send people to a new planet so that they can repopulate and the human species with not become extinct. They only problem is that the rocket can only take 10 people. You decide which 10 people should go to the new planet and tell me the reason why they should go…..

1.       A 15 year old female with 3 children.

2.       A 12 year old male bright student who wants to be a police officer.

3.       A 19 year old male computer technician.

4.       An 18 year old male high school dropout (unemployed).

5.       A 14 year old female pregnant with twins.

6.       A 15 year old female fashion model.

7.       A 15 year old female pregnant in high school.

8.       A 16 year old male boyfriend of # 7 baby’s father.

9.       10 year old male street child.

10.   A 19 year old male prostitute.

11.    A 20 year old male law student.

12.   A 10 year old female who was sexually abused by their stepfather.

13.   A 15 year old male who is very wealthy (rich).

14.   A 20 year old male footballer.

15.   A 22 year old female college student, studying the environment.

16.   A 20 year old male known for drug abuse.

17.   A 14 year old female boxer, she also has a part time job as a cashier.

18.   An 18 year old male who has the flu.

19.   A 19 year old female who is studying plants and trees.

20.   A 19 year old male gang member.

21.   A 17 year old male who collects garbage.

22.   A 20 year old female who owns her own food stand.

23.   A 10 year old male farmer.

24.   A 19 year old female who was raped by her boyfriend.

25.   A 12 year old male fisherman.

26.   A 17 year old male baker.

27.   A 22 year old actress and dancer who smokes.

28.   An 18 year old male professional basketball player.

29.   A 13 year old male who has chicken pox.

30 An 18 year old female who is studying psychology and has a fear of flying.

Jenna Samaroo


Never to late for New Beginnings :o)

I attended several weddings in the last couple weeks and the theme of new beginnings was lodged in my head. Two people deciding to commit to each other and start a life together is a beautiful thing. It is essentially a new beginning.

These weddings reminded me about therapy. Each person has a chance at a new beginning. Every day could be a new beginning. A fresh new day to start over and get going on the things we want to do. Many times people are afraid of new beginnings because there are many changes that takes place and some people think change is bad. I remember my father telling me ever since I was a child the only thing permanent in life is change, so why be afraid of it.

I think that is when clients come to see me, especially frustrated parents, or children of abuse; they desire a new beginning. My job is to sometimes make sure that they want that and help them toward it. I remember talking of a new beginning with a young lady that was sexually abused. She was like ” you know that makes sense, I really want to start over I just don’t now how”. Even a couple that came to me one time, they started dating again it was a new beginning for them because they haven’t gone out on a date with each other in years. Sometimes the human being falls into habit and comfort. The habit is so familiar that they are afraid to change things up and shift things around.

The simplest example of this is a good friend of mine who was sick and had to be out of the routine for two weeks. He was a bit afraid and depressed because those two weeks would have facilitated a change in routine, and out of his comfort zone. He was essentially afraid of THE CHANGE, because routine was comfortable. Two weeks later he wished he has more time to be out of the loop, because he had some time to get some other things done. In essence his experience was a New Beginning. At least that’s how I see it. Because I am pretty sure when he goes back out to work and gets involved in things again even if he does fall into a routine, it certainly would not be the same as two weeks prior to his time out.

I believe we all have a chance at a New Beginning every day. The weddings I attended reminded me of that. I think it is important to be reminded, reminders help keep us all grounded. So make today a new day in a new chapter of your life…

Support and Affirmation

This week has been a particularly fruitful week for me. After coming out of my birthday celebrations I had several work related and personal functions to attend. But the work I did in the last two weeks in therapy, and in observations has me believing that in some small way we can all make a difference.

Sometimes I believe all people need is for someone; anyone to show that they care. Children and adults alike look for this sort of affirmation from their peer, colleagues, friends and even strangers.In the last two weeks I took some time out to show support to my colleagues for the work they did with some young people. The young people my colleagues worked with, showed a lot of talent and potential. These young people showed that they can love, appreciate and help others. I felt so good to see that these young people were going through the lengths and breaths to make a difference in their schools. I felt good to know that there is hope in some of our youth. All my colleagues did was take the time and effort to help, nurture and show support to these young people, to reaffirm to them that they can do it! It was wonderful to see such positiveness in our youths!

I also had some clients of my own who just needed affirmation. In the last few weeks it I have dealt with many different issues. What I find happening the most, is that people know what they want to do, they know what they have to do, but they are looking for that support and affirmation from someone. People need to believe and sometimes need to hear this from someone else. I find a lot of time we are living in a very negative society and people do not show love and support for one another. It is important for us as a community, friend and family to help uplift and affirm each other. Because deep down we all know what we need to do, what we want to do about a situation, event or person. But we are afraid, afraid of hurt, afraid of pain, afraid of taking the risk, afraid of what other people say, we are afraid because everyone is telling us we will fail.

So the lessons learnt in the last few weeks for me is that sometimes I need to just focus on supporting and affirming persons around me. My faith and hope in the youth was reaffirmed, by me trying to be supportive of my colleagues…

Jenna Samaroo

Parenting or lack thereof….

My clients teach me a great deal about life and parenting. I have one young lady that plainly told me “its best my parents just spilt up because they quarrel too much”. Then I have another child telling me she is soo sad because “daddy doesn’t live at home anymore”.

The notion of the nuclear family is changing rapidly. The “normal”, “nuclear” family is almost non existent in today’s society.What I am finding the most, is that the daddy’s are missing in action. Firstly a good portion of fathers are not with the child mother when they child mother brings the child to see me, and even if the fathers are in the household they are too busy with work and other women to take the time that is needed for their children.

Beside the issue of the larger portion of fathers being a waste of time in terms of parenting because of different and diverse issues, there is the problem of basic parenting. Firstly the times have changed so no longer does society or the community take the time to discipline a child. There is a saying it takes a village to raise a child and in the times before the village used to take a valid interest in their children and take the time to correct them and raise them properly. But capitalism stepped in. Let me tell you capitalism is more than an economic phenomenon it is a world wide trend of a change of life. Society now only cares about itself. The village no longer cares about the next door neighbor’s child.

Ok back to my point on parenting. Times have changed and one of the problems is that parents go to different extreme with their kids. One extreme is to go to “well in my time” it was this way so you will have to do it this way. The youth of today will deliberately do it the opposite way because you just said back in your time!!! Young people will automatically rebel when we tie the ropes too tight when it comes to discipline and parenting. But then there is the other extreme of letting the child do as he/she pleases. Children need structure both parents cannot be working and leave the child at home unsupervised for a long period of time!!!!

In order to discipline children they need to have rules, guidelines and structure. Therefore leaving a 6 year old at home alone after school for 2 hours spells of disaster when that child hits 13 or 14. The cute 7 year old that throws tantrums and will ” grow out of the phase” spells disaster because chances are the tantrums will get progressively worse. Dressing a 8 year old in halter tops and short skirts is cute but when she reached 12 or 13 that will spell disaster…
Letting the child do what he/she likes with no consequence for action spells DISASTER!!!!

Therefore it is not the responsibility of the counsellor or psychologist to “fix” the child. Parents need to start taking responsibility. Fathers needs to have a input into their children’s lives. Mothers cannot do everything! When fathers and mothers fight, argue and are at wits ends with each other no one else suffers but the child. The child can manipulate the situation and play one parents against the other to get what he/she wants or they can be sad and frustrated with the situation. Whatever the child chooses to do is an equally destructive path. I remember calling one father to come in to speak with me because the child cries and becomes very sad when she misses her father. You know what that man said that he has NO TIME!!! What kind of fathers we have out there that has no time for their CHILDREN!!!! The child is quite distraught when the father makes promises that he cannot keep. The disappointment the child feels when the father calls to say I coming in 5 mins and it takes him 5 hours, 15 beers and some time by the other woman first!!

Its time for parents and society to be more responsible. Children cannot parent themselves, they need love, support and GUIDANCE. Its time for parents to step up to the plate and start working to save our youths.

Jenna Samaroo


Where do I start with this… I feel very passionate about trained people caring for children. Part of work entails working with institutions so I have first hand knowledge of the damage that untrained staff can have on children. These institutions are largely government assisted so there lies the problem. The ministry handles the hiring of the staff but the qualifications for working in residential institutions in Trinidad and Tobago are just CXC passes!!!! Imagine that CXC passes to work with at risk children!!!! Obviously that doesn’t make any sense but that’s the fact of the matter at the moment.

So my blog yesterday on child’s rights and legislation comes back to the same point of implementation and executing. It is all well and good to have laws but why are the authorities starting from the wrong end? Firstly if there is to be structure in place for abused children the existing institutions should be revised. Therefore staff should be TRAINED to handle cases of abused, abandoned and neglected children.

At the moment it sad mess and disgrace to see how “caregivers” handle children simply because they are not trained firstly in caring for children and secondly caring for children who at at risk, and have many mental health issues. Therefore the government need to get their priorities correct and start working on making the human resource work to better the society. Many pretty building are going up but the children continue to suffer and staff especially in institutions continue to be untrained.

There is a need for treatment centres as well. Children who have been neglected, abandoned and abused don’t need a residential home environment. What they need is a therapeutic treatment centre so that they learn to heal from the loss, hurt and pain that they feel. They need a complete therapeutic environment to help them to become less at risk and to live somewhat normal lives. These children need to feel safe and secure, they need to feel love, and in some cases the onset on mental illness can be prevented. They don’t need to continue to struggle for sanity and be subjected to caregivers who need more therapy, and have mor mental health issues than the children themselves.

Sometimes the work I do can get disheartening. Sometime I wonder if I am spinning top in mud in trying to work with the children when the caregivers break down all that my colleages and I try to do. But it is my calling to work with them and make a difference. If I can get through to one child it is one step closer to making a difference for me. So I will continue to work and take my fulfillment from the baby steps that the children make. Because those baby steps are a big deal in the wider scheme of things knowing what odds they are up again. The baby steps are in fact not so baby. I will continue to speak out and fight against the system. That’s the least I can do at this point……

Jenna Samaroo

Sad News

Today the talk of the town is the sad news about the eight year old girl who was raped and killed by her mother’s boyfriend. Listening to that story really broke the heart and spirit of many people around me. I mean many of my cases I deal with sexual and physical abuse of children, but it doesn’t make a new case easier. Each case pulls at my heart strings no matter what. Each case is a very serious matter. Children these days are suffering a whole lot. Not only are they physically and sexually abused but they are abused emotionally and mentally. When a parent or authority figure tells a child “look at you, your a no good like your mother/ father” or “I’d live to see the day your picture on the papers” or “you so damn stupid” that’s emotional abuse!!!!!

These various types of abuse is happening more often than not. Most of the children I see are really suffering. They are being torn to pieces because their parents are divorced, separated or simply can’t get along. Some of them don’t even understand the full impact of their parents arguments and they often feel they are the cause. Yes yes if parents don’t take the time to communicate and work with the child, he/she feels that he/she is the cause of the divorce or separation of the parents. Some children live by aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc and these people would rather and prefer not to be taking care of these children. The child feels totally and completely rejected and unloved in situation where there is a care of “I only keeping you because of your mother/father” and ” I don’t know why your mother/father don’t take you”.

There are also instances of children torn apart because their mother had children with many different men, and the man in the house now is not their father. When a situation like this occurs, the children from the earlier set of children with the first father or fathers suffers the most, because they have to endure the change of father figures on a frequent basis. And when the father figure changes there are a host of problems added to that. One of the main problems is abuse. The boyfriend, common law husband or whatever you want to call the new man around often has his own set of bad habits, baggage and children. In many of my cases he is the one that instigates the mother to reject the children that are not his. He lays down the law because he’s the one that is providing money. The other children will get food, clothes, money for school etc. when he says. He is the one who often abuses the children, verbally, emotionally, physically and worst of all sexually. Now mind you I say many cases, but sometimes the father figure can be a good genuine person who seeks the best interest of all the mother’s children, his children and even those who are not his, and provides well and equally for all the children in the household. But to tell you the truth those stories are far and few in between.

But back to the point though, what kind of man or men are we rearing in our society? What kind of man rapes and kills an 8 year old girl? How many young girls and boys are out there that are being abused and broken beyond repair? Before I spoke of the responsibility of motherhood, but we are also responsible as a society to make a difference. I think we need to do something to help the young women who are lost with many children and who doesn’t know what to do with herself except make more children. We also need to help our young men because they no longer have respect for themselves must less women, children and others in society which includes you and me. We have lost many of our young men to the streets, drugs, gangs etc. What can we do to help? What can we do to make sure another 8 year girl is not raped and murdered again…….That is the question we must all ponder on today………

Jenna Samaroo


Being a mother is a great responsibility. Many times a woman does not understsand the full potential of being a mother. Working with children have taught me the value of a mother. I found that children yearn for their mothers love. No matter how “bad” the mother might be, abusive, on drugs, neglectful no matter, a child wants that contact with his/her mother no matter what….

It upsets me greatly when a mother rejects her child, especially because of a man who she is a current relationship with. Let me explain, I had a young lady once, who came to see me with behavioural problems but on closer probing we were able to decipher what was the real cause of the problem. She is from the first batch of children and had a different father to the second batch. The father of the second batch of children has all the influence on the mother. His children are the best in the world and the others from the first marriage are nothing. The mother rejects the first set of children because of the influence of the stepfather. How can that be right? How is the child to feel? How can a mother cause so much trauma to the child she gave birth to?

Unfortunately this kind of thing happens on a daily basis. Many times mothers, mothers to be, women in general do not understand the importance of being a mother. They do not understand the impact they have on their children. Parents, especially mothers are instumental in providing the child with their first knowledge of love. A child comes into the world as a blank slate, a tabula raza as it is called by some psychologist, therefore the environment, the parents especially the mother impacts upon that slate, that is the child, and lays the foundation for which their lives are build. So if a child is rejected from the mother and does not know what is love, then are we surprised that youths are in a mess today?

So much damage is done to a child who is rejected by their mother. The child is confused and lost. There is no way they can comprehend love, give love or have respect for love. Motherhood is a serious job, I hope all the women out there realise what an important role they have in being a mother…..

Jenna Samaroo

Multi Tasking

Its interesting how one person can be good at many different things. We each have our own set of talents and its up to us to use it wisely. This thought came to me because at work I am asked to do many different things. At one of my jobs we joke about me being the IT technician because I am forever fixing someone’s PC. I also do brochures really well so for the past 4 weeks I am being assigned a brochure a week to do!!! How can I refuse when its good to just do something different, something I like and something I’m good at…..I also do staff training, life skills and more times that not I get a child whose giving some sort of trouble dropped on my lap. How can I say no……

Besides being the IT technician, counsellor and brochure maker I’m thinking what else can i do really well. At home i love to cook, but I don’t find the time. Cooking takes preparation and preparation means time. So the question I ask myself is how to I incorporate it all!!!!

While I’m still trying to figure that out I have to point out I noticed that women are born multi-taskers. Women usually do many different things in one given day, a woman is a mother, economist, wife, worker, driver, daughter, cook, cleaner, etc. What is really hilarious is trying to see a man multitask. It is really a funny sight because the poor man do not know where to start!!!! Women often get irritated when men can’t multitask like themselves. I myself find myself in that trap many times. I get impatient with a male in my life because he’s not doing all the different things I am, but every now and then I have to remember I was born to do many things in one day, but the male species was not. I have to remember to be patient and loving while hes doing one thing and I’m doing a million. I also have to remember that my talents are different to other person’s and I should not laugh or turn my nose up when other people’s stuff does not look as “good” as mine. In one given day there are many reminders of the way we should act and treat people, especially those who do not have our same talents and cannot multitask in the same ways we do.

Life is truly funny and its even spicier when we can do many different things and understand that each person’s set of talents are different and unique and needed to make the world go around…..

Jenna Samaroo