Mother of teen allegedly assaulted sexually says church, community members hostile towards them
THE mother of a St Mary teen, who was allegedly assaulted sexually by a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) elder in Heywood Hall in the parish, is facing backlash from some community and church members.
The woman, who timidly spoke to the
East last Wednesday, said she has had to attend a different church because of how "difficult" and "awkward" the situation has got.
"They talk behind my back and say that I knew it (alleged sexual assault) was happening, and that is not true. You would think that they would say ‘keep strong, we are with you’, like how people treat people going through something difficult. They’ve said nothing of the sort to me," the woman said.
Her daughter, she said, has been coping well despite acrimony from some residents and family members of the elder.
The teen reportedly told her guidance counsellor about the incident after her teacher observed a wound on her hand and questioned her about it. She reportedly admitted to the counsellor that she had been sexually assaulted by the churchman. The matter was reported to the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse.
The elder was subsequently arrested and charged by the Port Maria police.
He has been charged with grievous sexual assault, sexual grooming, and having sex with a person under 16 years old.
Since the alleged incident, which reportedly occurred in January, the mother said she has had several conversations with her daughter reassuring her that she will be okay and that the alleged assault was not her fault.
"I tell my daughter, ‘when you are walking, hold your head high,’" she said, adding that other children are happy her daughter spoke out about what happened to her.
"Several of them are going through it and they are afraid to speak," she continued.
She shared with the
North East that several community members have publicly voiced that she should leave the area because she had brought down shame on the community.
"We are standing our ground. I have been a Christian since I was 15 (years old) and I know my God. He has never left me," she said with conviction.
One woman who spoke with the
Observer North East, said the teen’s mother was telling the truth about the treatment meted out to her.
"Dem vex seh she go report it. Dem seh she shouldn’t talk," the woman said.
Another woman, who said she was a close church sister of the mother, said that she has never said anything to her about community or church members being hostile towards her.
A man who was close by said he, too, was not aware of any such behaviour from the community.
"I was talking to a young man yesterday (last Tuesday) and the only thing he said was that if he (elder) was guilty he should be punished. So nothing like that," the man said.
In the meantime, president of the SDA Church in Jamaica, Pastor Everett Brown, warned that his church will not protect anyone who has broken the law.
Brown, in a media release, last month said: "While we await the outcome of the investigations, we admonish our workers and members to live up to the high moral and ethical code of conduct for which our church is known and to cooperate with the authorities in bringing to justice those who have violated the laws of the land."
Pastor Brown also condemned unlawful sex acts against children, adding that the church sympathised with the victims and their families who have been traumatised by abuse of any kind.