Management of child abuse victims: Only cops clad in civvies must visit children
By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
According to the national guidelines on the management of victims of abuse and neglect, it is recommended that Police officers should wear civilian clothing whenever they visit children at homes, schools or in hospitals, noted Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Teaching Hospital Karapitiya, Dr. Darshani Hettiarachchi.
Also, the victims should be transported in a non-official vehicle, she pointed out, while citing the relevant national guidelines.
A deviation from these standards was evidenced in an incident where six girls from the same school who were in Grade 11 were reported to have been allegedly sexually abused by the school’s science teacher, at school, on multiple occasions. The abuse was assessed to be of the non-actual physical activity (non-touch) type and therefore with no physical injuries. A class teacher had reported the incident to the relevant authorities.
Police officers dressed in uniforms had then visited each girl at their house and transported them to the hospital by a Police vehicle for assessment by a judicial medical officer.
They were sent home and produced before a consultant child psychiatrist after one week for psychological assessment where it was found that while none of the victims had shown psychological symptoms related to the direct effect of the abuse, they were all assessed however, to be having psychological consequences of trauma secondary to being transported in a Police vehicle and the resultant public reaction to it. All the girls had reported that travelling in the Police vehicle was more traumatic than the abuse. They reported that the reaction and comments of the villagers were much more stressful than the abuse.
This reflects how the system has further maltreated victims of abuse, she noted.
This clinical example where the system has deviated from the expected standards and recommendations in management was cited in an opinion piece titled the 'Management of victims of child abuse in Sri Lanka: The view of a Child Psychiatrist' authored by Dr. Hettiarachchi which was published this month in the Sri Lanka Journal of Child Health.