November 2009

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Breaking the Silence – 16 Days of Activism

Breaking the Silence: Child Sexual Abuse with a Special Emphasis on Incest: A Multi-Sectoral Approach is one of two initiatives of the research programme: Gender, Sexuality and Implications for HIV. This is a project of The Institute of Gender and Development Studies (IGDS), UWI, St. Augustine, led by Professor Rhoda Reddock, Deputy Principal of the St Augustine Campus and Dr Sandra Reid, lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medical Sciences.

The overall aim of the programme is to integrate the analysis of gender and sexuality into research and action related to HIV. This particular project focuses on breaking the silence that has surrounded incest and other forms of child sexual abuse in Trinidad and Tobago. Its aim is generating knowledge and understanding on child sexual abuse/incest and the implications for HIV; empowering women, girls, men and boys to address these issues; and influencing service providers to strengthen their response to child sexual abuse and to understand the linkages between child sexual abuse/incest and HIV.

Break the Silence is the name given to the pilot multi-disciplinary, community-based empowerment and educational intervention which has been developed and is being implemented in three communities in Trinidad and Tobago: Aranguez and Toco in Trinidad and Charlotteville in Tobago. It targets boys and girls, and young people, male and female adults in various capacities as students, parents, survivors, community-based service providers such as teachers, social and cultural groups and community activists. The activities, which were proposed by and developed in collaboration with community members, span three broad areas: educational, skills building and service provision. Examples of these include teacher sensitization seminars, parenting workshops, child-centered activities and interactive, artistic and theatre-based activities.

Like other life issues, child abuse across the globe is recognizable by a ribbon, in this case, a blue ribbon. This ribbon is not yet widely or immediately known in Trinidad and Tobago. The blue teddy bear has been created to symbolize the Break the Silence research and intervention project and to signal a call to awareness about issues surrounding CSA/incest and HIV. The symbol uses the teddy bear that is a long-time image of security, love, care, comfort and relationships; however, this teddy bear wears a plaster positioned on its heart, offering a sense of healing and hope.

The project has received core funding from The United Nations Trust Fund for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, managed by UNIFEM, New York and UNICEF Caribbean. So far over US$400,000 has been committed to this project. In order to facilitate this intervention and to ensure sustainability at the end of the project, the IGDS has partnered with The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV). Other partnerships have been established with The Caribbean Health Research Council (CHRC); Arts in Action (the Theatre in Education programme of the Department of Creative and Festival Arts UWI, St Augustine), and the Department of Social Services and Gender Affairs, Tobago House of Assembly.

The Break the Silence project team recognises the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign and calls for greater awareness and action on the issues surrounding child sexual abuse and incest and their implications for HIV. This UN campaign takes place annually from November 25 (International Day of No Violence against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day) and includes World AIDS Day: December 1.