Cheryl Burke admits being molested. What does that have to do with us?

In a new book, Cheryl Burke of Dancing with the Stars fame reveals she was molested as a child. As reported on People.com, Burke said the molestation began at age 5 by a person close to her family. She also talks about having to testify at his trial, which led to a 20-year sentence.

It seems that many more celebrities are coming out with cases of molestation or other forms of child abuse. In the past few years, we’ve heard from Monique, Raz-B from B2K, and Teri Hatcher from Housewives. Many celebrities who admit to such a devastating time in their lives mention doing so because of the platform they’ve been give. They all mention telling their storis in hope of encouraging others to do so.

Across the Eastern Caribbean, child molestation and sexual abuse is one of the most difficult topics to discuss. As a society, we know it happens. As a society, we keep saying we are doing everything to address it. Yet as a society, there is little public discourse on the topic. I posit that one of the reasons is the lack of published data on the child abuse across the region. So we are left with governments spewing numbers and rarely putting them in context.

Exhibit one is two recent articles on Dominica News Online from the Minister for Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs and Chief Welfare Officer. (To read them, visit here and here.) Both address child sexual abuse as one of the leading forms of abuse committed against children on the island. The Minister for Social Services attributes the increase in reporting of abuses to increased public sensitization and awareness without really discussing what the public knows.

Also, published reports sometimes do not get the media attention that other topics receive. For example, the article from the Chief Welfare Officer references a 2009 UNICEF study on child abuse in six OECS countries. The only thing the article said about that report was it’s confirmation that child abuse is an issue on Dominica.

In fact, the article is about “Perceptions of, Attitudes to, and Opinions on Child Sexual Abuse in the Eastern Caribbean” and begins by saying that “Although there is extensive international research, few empirical studies of child sexual abuse have been carried out in the Caribbean and there are no reliable data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse, or indeed on attitudes and perceptions of abuse across the region.”

I did search on previous articles from DNO to see what they’d written at the time of the report release in June 2010. Several articles appear here, here, here and here. And, as I suspected, the ‘articles’ are more in line with press releases. There is very little in-depth reporting on what the study says, what the study means, and implications for interventions towards addressing child sexual abuse in our society as well as the impact of such abuse on future health and welfare of our kids.

I’ve decided to go through the report and write another positing on it at a later date.

P.S. After writing this post, I was listening to Stardom Tent in Dominica and one of the songs addressed child molesters. This reminded me how this issue is at once pervasive in our music yet hidden in so many ways. This is not the first song dealing with child abuse and child molesters. It won’t be the last. I’ll try to get the lyrics or maybe the song and put it on here.

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