(CNS): With the launch of a new policy aimed at local sports associations to help them prevent the abuse of young athletes, Sports Minister Osbourne Bodden said that Cayman has regrettably changed and development has led to greater risks for kids playing sport. The policy is designed to deter and prevent abuse, facilitate reporting and to help sports clubs, societies and associations deal with any cases that emerge where sports coaches, volunteers or other sexual predators take advantage of the sports arena to abuse young victims.
As the UK reels from the recent mass reports of past sexual abuse, in particularly in football, the Cayman government hopes the new policy will help local sports associations deal with problems in the future, as the minister said he did not believe that there was an historical problem in the Cayman Islands.
“I never dreamed as a teenager involved in sport that we would ever need such a policy,” the minister said at a press briefing Wednesday to launch the policy, suggesting that “right minded people” looked after young people in sport when he was young and everyone “felt safe”.
But development had changed things, he said, as he implied that sexual predators were imported.
“Cayman was different back then,” the minister said, adding that while there may have been sexual abuse in sport in the past, he believed it was a more recent phenomenon because of “foreign influences”.
However, officials from the ministry and the Department of Children and Family Services made it clear that anyone who was a victim of historical sex abuse in the past can report their experience. While prosecution may be difficult for events that took place many years ago, the department will investigate and assist any victims that seek help.
In more recent years, at least one football coach has been convicted of sex crimes with a young player, and extradition proceedings are currently underway involving a high-profile local athlete’s ex-husband, who allegedly abused young athletes in Cayman when he was employed here by the Cayman Islands Athletics Association.
Although these arenas were where abusers have been identified locally, neither the Cayman Islands Football Association (CIFA) nor CIAA were among the first sports groups to sign up to the policy. Representatives from the local netball association, the rugby union, the squash association and local boxing were the first four associations to sign up at the launch of the policy, but the minister said the rest would follow.
Joel Francis, the assistant chief officer in the ministry, said that all local sports clubs, societies and association had worked with the ministry to shape the policy and they were all signing up. The minister was also emphatic that although no sanctions have been written into the policy, any societies that do not conform will face the consequences. Bodden said the policy was in line with the requirements of the children’s law and that government had the tools to make sure clubs complied.
The draft version of the policy was sent out for consultation in October and all aspects were discussed by the major stakeholders in local associations. It requires that each association appoints an internal, trained, child protection officer for reporting purposes. The first round of child abuse prevention training-sessions will start on Cayman Brac next week and Grand Cayman later in the month.
All reports must be made to the DCFS, the statutory body responsible for the prevention, investigation and management of child abuse matters.
The ministry also confirmed that a similar policy will be devised to deal with youth organisations as well. The minister said aim was for the government to do all it could to keep children safe and to send the message that everything possible will be done to protect young people, and that abuse of children will not be tolerated.