A 26-year-old mother of five in St. Vincent says she regrets following the advice of government officials to send her son to a state-run home for at-risk children.
The woman told iWitness News, on Thursday, that rather than getting the help that her son needed, he ended up being raped, in February 2019 by a 16-year-old male resident of the home, against whom no charges have been brought.
The woman said that about two years ago, her then 9-year-old son, who had been living with his father’s cousin, began stealing.
The child’s father was living overseas and left him in his cousin’s custody because the child’s mother could not care for him and his siblings.
When her son came to live with her, the mother went to the Social Welfare Department in Kingstown to seek help for him.
He went back to live with his mother because he began stealing and lying and they could not deal with those things.
The woman said that her son would steal and use cell phones and use them to take photos and access Facebook.
The Social Welfare Department suggested that the boy be sent to the state-run home, which caters for at-risk children.
“I agreed with them because I wanted my son to get help because I did not want him to continue stealing and when he get older he ends up in prison or, worse, someone kill him,” the mother told iWitness News.
The child was then transferred from the school in the rural community where he lived to one in a suburban area close to the city.
He would spend weekdays at the facility and weekends with his mother.
“One weekend, something had happened and I didn’t go for him. So I went for him the following weekend. When I went for him, he came by me, he was normal and then I carried him straight to school on the Monday and in the evening he was supposed to go back to [the home]. So I saw him coming by me the Monday, so I asked him what happened,” the mother told iWitness News.
The child told his mother that he did not feel like going back to the state-run facility and that he wanted to stay at her house.
The mother took her son home then back to school on Tuesday, telling him that he had to go back that afternoon to the state-run home.
However, that Tuesday, she got a call from the home asking her to report to the Social Welfare Department immediately.
She was later referred to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, where detectives told her that her son had reported that a 16-year-old resident of the state-run home had raped him two weeks earlier.
The mother said that the home referred her to the Social Welfare Department, which informed her that she had to take her son back into her house.
The woman did and transferred the child to a school closer to her home.
She further told the Welfare Department that she believes that her son needed psychological help and they agreed and said they would help.
“Nothing came out of the rape,” the woman said, adding that she visited CID multiple times and all they said was that the investigation was still on-going but no one was charged.
“When he came back to live with me, he was scared from the rape and was stealing more,” the woman said, adding that whereas her son had been stealing and keeping items, he began stealing and selling them.
The mother told iWitness News that she had to repay people three to four times for items that her son had stolen.
“I told the Welfare about it and all they did was come and talk to him and he would go back to the same situation,” the woman said.
She said that things came to a head last August when her son stole his aunt’s airbed and hid it, apparently with the intention of selling it.
A neighbour had met the airbed outside and inquired about the owner.
The mother said that when she asked her son about the airbed, he initially denied knowledge of it, but later admitted his involvement and began crying a lot.
She then hit him on his hand telling him if he wanted something to cry for he could get something to cry for.
The mother said that the blow resulted in a red mark on the skin of the child, who is fair in complexion.
The mother said the child went to his cousin’s house and “tell them a whole set a lies” and they took him to a police station.
She was arrested and taken to magistrate’s court charged with assault occasioning bodily harm.
She pleaded guilty and the matter was transferred to Family Court.
The Welfare Department, as ordered, submitted a report to the court, but did not mention the rape allegation.
The mother, however, said that when the president of the Family Court asked her to explain herself, she told the court what she had heard about the rape.
The case was adjourned to this month, the court having ordered that an investigation be conducted.
The woman said that she understands that a senior staffer at home, responsible for staying there and ensuring that the male residents do their chores, etc., is gay.
“I am feeling upset because he ain’t get no justice and [this] is an institution for a child to get better, not worse. I sent my child up [there] to be cured of one thing but now he has more than one behaviour going on. I am very upset,” the mother said.
The woman said it was not the first time that she had been taken before the court in connection with her children.
She said that the court had initially (in 2018) taken away her children from her after the same son reported to police that she was leaving them at home alone at nights.
The woman said that she used to go to the landfill to pick up plastic bottles to sell to recyclers to provide for her family, but had to do so after dark because entry to the public is prohibited.
She said she would often stay there late, sometimes until midnight.
And, on one occasion, the same son reported to police that she had left them at home alone.
When officers responded, they found the child’s report to be true and charged their mother with child abandonment.
The court referred the woman to Marion House, where she completed a parenting course.
The woman said that three of her five children live with her, with one of them living with her father and her eldest child still resides at the state-run home where he was reportedly violated.
She said that she has limited interaction with her son.
“Let me tell you the truth, because of what he going on with, because of the behaviour, he stealing and so on.
“It is the second time he is making police lock me up, I know it is not his fault, he makes his decision subconsciously. His father has a part to play with this because he feels I am too struck with [our son] and [our son] should have his way.
“I am keeping my distance from [my son] right now because [he] needs a lot of help and because of the rape and because of the things that they are allowing him to do up [at the home] because they have all kind of different persons up there, because some of them boys were on the street of Kingstown and the things they have in their head they teaching [my son] the same thing — like stealing, cursing bad words. He want to have his own way. He feel he ah big man.
“That environment up there, I won’t encourage anybody to send their children up there. Up there is not a nice place,” the woman said, adding that the alleged rapist is also still a resident at the home.
“I never knew him to be behaving like that before that incident. I heard after he went back up there, they still going on with the same thing,” she said.
On Thursday, a senior staff member of the state-run facility told iWitness News that she was on leave during the period when the alleged rape occurred.
The staff member said that the issue was handled by the director, who is now overseas and, therefore, unavailable to comment.
The staff member said that while she had heard of the allegation, she was, therefore, not in a position to comment on it in any informed way.