Grimacing from the knife wound a female relative had dealt him a mere three days before, 14-year-old John (not his real name) still tried to keep a smile as journalists yesterday walked through the bedroom he is forced to sleep in, next to a duck pen.
The smell of faeces was overbearing at his Tabaquite home, but it is where the epileptic outpatient now spends his nights after his relatives kicked him out of the habitable part of the house. With no covering on the mattress, most of the louvres missing and mosquito infested water around the house, his nights are cold. His dingy clothes were just flung across an old chair.
His neighbours were emotional yesterday as they spoke about the unclean conditions he lived in, but more so the abuse he suffers at the hands of a female relative. After claiming ignorance over how John suffered the gash and the other scars, the woman admitted that she got angry at him and struck him. She said she did not mean to cut him, but admitted she had the knife in her hand at the time.
Their neighbour Faith Ramcharan, whose photos and video of John’s injuries and accommodation went viral on social media on Wednesday, said since the teen moved in with the female relative and her common-law husband six months ago, he has been constantly abused. Showing the piece of wood she claimed was used to abuse the child, Ramcharan said she had to take it away from the woman’s reach.
“His aunt came this morning to visit and she explained his background. She told us that he only went preschool and that his age was 16. He said he is 14 and his mother gives a different age,” Ramcharan said.
“He is always smiling, even when he is getting licks but he bawls. He gets licks weekly and when we talk to her, she said she does not want him. She said she made him so she could kill him. Someone from the Children’s Authority came but the mother said that she does not want the child.”
John’s step father showed journalists the boy’s room, saying it was acceptable since he (step father) lived in worse conditions as a child. He described John as troublesome and lazy, saying that he would roam the streets and get into trouble. He said he moved John to the lower floor because he would peep at them while they were having intercourse or when they were watching adult movies. Asked whether he felt John was mentally sound, he said no but still insisted that the child finds a job and clean his room.
While the stepfather said John held down a neighbour’s daughter and threw a bottle at a boy recently, neighbours said John was exposed to lewd sexual behaviour and was only repeating what he saw. Just last week, John went to play football in the savannah when a group of boys began to bully him so he threw the bottle in retaliation, they said.
An officer from the Children’s Authority visited yesterday but said he could not give any information to the media. John was taken into the care of the authority.
In a release yesterday, the authority said when John’s case was brought to its attention, the Emergency Response Team (ERT) was dispatched to locate him to determine the necessary intervention. On another issue, the authority said while it welcomes efforts in highlighting cases of child abuse the public should refrain from sharing posts that reveal children’s faces and identity via the internet, since this can cause further trauma to the child. (See other story)
Ramcharan agreed that when she reported the abuse to the Children’s Authority on previous occasions they visited last December and in January, but said they failed to assess the living conditions of the child. She said the Brasso police would often visit, but they have only spoken to the relatives who would stop for a short time before the beatings resume.
Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Kevon Felmine)