As parents migrate, Venezuelan kids fall prey to abuse

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelan children, left behind by parents seeking a better life elsewhere and forsaken by a crumbling schooling system, are increasingly falling victim to sexual predators.

Issued on:

2 min

Advertising

In some cases, experts say, the abuse even happens with the consent of caretakers desperate for “payment” in food or cash.

Reported cases of child sex abuse in the economic crisis-hobbled South American country rose to more than 5,500 in 2022 — up nearly 30 percent from a year earlier, according to official data, and a ten-year high.

Some 10 million of Venezuela’s 30 million inhabitants are children or teenagers.

According to criminologist Magally Huggins, emigration is leaving children vulnerable as they are handed off to grandparents, other family members or even neighbors.

Another cause is the crisis in the education system, with public schools open only one or two days a week as teachers work fewer hours to compensate for low salaries.

“Children are alone more, more exposed to violence, and this is where the abuse comes in: this… problem that is now on the rise,” Huggins told AFP.

The REDHNNA children’s rights network says there has also been an increase in parents or guardians allowing abuse “as a means of dealing with the economic crisis.”

In some cases, a parent would allow a neighbor to abuse a child “because they are giving money… food. We are really seeing this very often,” social worker Angeyeimar Gil, a REDHNNA researcher, told AFP.

Often times, “well, mom migrated or mom is working… and is not present at home,” she said.

‘Pedophilia is a crime’

According to A Window to Freedom, a prisoner rights NGO, child sex abuse is one of the six main reasons for imprisonment in Venezuela.

Attorney General Tarek William Saab told AFP the rising case numbers could also be partly ascribed to a project launched in 2021, dubbed “Pedophilia is a crime,” which he said has “allowed for people to lose their fear” of reporting abuse.

Many victims who had been afraid to come forward have now done so under the project, he said.

“Visibility has been key, to make the phenomenon visible and speak about it openly,” said Saab.

However, the mother of a young girl who was abused by her father spoke to AFP of massive delays in the criminal justice system.

“They say to you: ‘there is a campaign’, ‘denounce, speak” but the case has been under investigation for 16 months, with the alleged abuser — a public servant — still free, while she was pressured into resigning from her job as a policewoman, the woman said.

Attorney General Tarek William defends his office's approach to child sex abuse
Attorney General Tarek William defends his office’s approach to child sex abuse © Federico PARRA / AFP

The Child Rights International Network, in a recent report, said Venezuela was the second-worst country in Latin America in terms of measures to prevent child sexual abuse.

“Officials are not trained to address and care for victims of child sexual abuse,” public security expert Francis Prieto told AFP of the uphill battle against the scourge.

But Saab complained the issue was being “politicized” and defended his office’s management of child sex abuse by pointing to 12,502 alleged offenders charged since 2017, with 4,295 convictions.

Logo-favicon

Sign up to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Sign up today to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site