We gathered in Lucea, Hanover in Jamaica.
Remember the face and certainly remember the name. Diahann Gordon Harrison, the Children’s Advocate for the Country of Jamaica. Mrs. Gordon Harrison is doing remarkable work to protect the Children of Jamaica. My career in Journalism has shown that I’m pretty accurate at making bold predictions. Here is another one. It is my strong belief that her work will soon be worldwide. On the surface, Gordon Harrison who is also an attorney, is so unassuming and soft-spoken. But she is talented, dedicated, and determined to help children. I wish someone like her was around at my hour of need all those years ago in my situation, but I’m thankful that she is in place for now and for children of the future. Gordon Harrison, (not realizing it) took me back more than 30 years, reminding me of something the Rev. Jesse Jackson would say in his 1988 Presidential Stump speech as I traveled with him covering his campaign as a reporter. Jackson’s declaration was to help mothers who seek Head Start, Day Care and Prenatal Care services “on the front side of life,” rather than society being forced to pay triple or even higher on the back side. In other words funds going towards important services now, and on education, would help prevent the tripling of building prisons later on. Here is what Mrs. Gordon Harrison told me:
“At the end of the day, It’s always better to have that chance to build a very positive child who is very valuing in self… and self-esteem than to try to fix a broken adult.” -Diahann Gordon Harrison/Children’s Advocate of Jamaica
“And so while I have never had that first hand experience of having going through childhood trauma, Thank God for that, I have seen first hand how debilitating it is, and literally shuts children down.” -Diahann Gordon Harrison/Children’s Advocate of Jamaica
Gordon Harrison put together the Child Justice Guidelines Training Seminar for the JCF and JP(s). A conference for top police brass and commanders in Jamaica, and for Justice’s of the Peace who deal with Children. The event was in collaboration with UNICEF, and was held at the lovely Grand Palladium Resort and Spa.
“So we were seeing at office, a lot of children who were re-traumatized by the system. These were children who were already broken because they had very negative experiences. Many times, they had relatives or people who they knew and trusted, and so psychologically they were already broken and impaired. When you have a child who is so broken that gets up the courage to make a report and go through the process, hoping for justice in the system, but the system because how it is structured, re-traumatized that child and makes the process of recovery, that much more difficult, we say something is inherently wrong with that, and as an office that has the responsibility to really safeguard children and to protect rights, we had to step in and do something, and so the general thought process is you can’t leave the child’s recovery, or the intervention to chance. If the child meets an officer who gets it, then they have a great process. If they get an officer who has no clue, then it can be a life altering negative impact on that child. So we wanted to standardized systems, have minimum standards — — that there is a child appropriate and child friendly justice and having the system responding to their needs, instead of hurting them.” -Diahann Gordon Harrison/Children’s Advocate of Jamaica
“The abuse wasn’t my fault. I didn’t invite it. I didn’t ask for it. It’s not your fault. It is NOT your fault! and it’s never too late to seek help. Gotta get help!” -Childhood Sexual Abuse Victim Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
The photo above is the guide to aid law enforcement to help children. An etiquette of the “do’s and don’ts,” in dealing with children and the special sensitivity that is required. Here is how Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison explained the guidelines.
“So we tell judges what to do if they have a case involving a child victim. If the child is a little hesitate and breaking down, we have things in the guidelines that say take reasonable breaks, find out if the child has a psychologist, or supportive person.” -Diahann Gordon Harrison/Children’s Advocate of Jamaica
“We have guidelines that tell prosecutors what to do. If you have a child victim for example, have that court orientation. You can’t be meeting the child, the first time when your going to cross examine or have that child in court.” -Diahann Gordon Harrison/Children’s Advocate of Jamaica
Gordon Harrison went on to say: “we tell defense counsel as well what to do. We tell correctional service people what to do….and so it is really an all encompassing very simple guide that helps every single player in the justice system deal with any child.”
An author, Julie Mansfield was one of the keynotes at the conference. I (Reporter Dominic Carter) was the other. Ms. Mansfield who has an outgoing friendly personality is from Jamaica, but now lives in Miami. She empowers other victims with her book, “Maybe God was Busy.” Ms. Mansfield was repeatedly sexually abused starting at age 8, and describes herself as an easy target where sex became a commodity and was transactional.
“Easy target because once sexual abuse happens, it lowers your self esteem, it lowers your self worth, your value, all that stuff. Your judgement goes out the window, and so sex was a commodity if you will. It was transactional and there were periods of time where I thought I was only good for sex. I was put on this earth for pleasure of others. Not even for my own self….for the pleasure of others.” -Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
Ms. Mansfield went on to tell me: “So it just became OK, alright. It was routine. It was routine.” It’s rather ironic that as a victim of Childhood sexual abuse, I went into Journalism specifically to be a “voice for the voiceless.” Look at why Julie says this subject is so important to her.
“ It’s important because I have to use my voice to help the voiceless. Right! And in Jamaica too many voiceless who are still suffering in silence. So every chance I get, every time they call, I’m on that plane and I’m coming here because it’s my service to my country. It’s to use my voice, to give back, to put a face to the statistics right! The statistics are abstract. Say 1 in 4 girls in Jamaica….I think it’s probably 3 in 4 girls who are abused, right….but the statistics are abstract. We don’t relate to numbers. You relate to a face, you relate to a name, you relate to a person….so If I can use my voice and speak up and say hey, it happened to me but here I am, then why not.” -Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
“Sexual Abuse is a life sentence, cause it stays with you for the rest of your life! It doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It doesn’t have to be life in prison. You can overcome. I spent years and years, and years in therapy, and I’m still in therapy, cause I don’t think it’s something that ever stops. I think healing is a journey. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey, and so I’m on my journey of healing and will be for the rest of my life. Will be for the rest of my life! But I had to seek help. In Jamaica they tell you to pray. P….R….A….Y. Well while we P…R….A….Y, they P….R….*E*….Y! Right. So while we pray, their preying! So I had to take myself out of that, and go and get professional help and know that God sent help in the form of a therapist. So that’s what I have been doing for the last 40-something years is in therapy, therapy, learning to take care of myself, learning that the abuse wasn’t my fault. I didn’t invite it…..I didn’t ask for it. It’s not your fault. It is NOT your fault! and it’s never to late to seek help. Gotta get help! -Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
“Who sexually abused you. Not the names, the titles?” (Journalist Dominic Carter)
(Mansfield laughs for a quick second) Who didn’t! Who didn’t. My uncles. Uncles! My doctor, the Voodoo practitioner. It was a slew of folks. It started of course with my mother’s youngest brother, but it ended in New York. It started in Jamaica, but ended in New York….with another of my mother’s brothers. It was wide spectrum, from all walks of life, and I was the easy target if you will. I was the easy target.” -Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
“Why did you title your book: Maybe God Was Busy?” (Journalist Dominic Carter)
“At 8 years old….That is the only thing was….that was the prevailing thought….Was he must have been busy in Somalia…with famine. He must have been busy with some floods and fires….things that are more important. Things that are grander and effect more people. So I really felt abandoned by God. I grew up in the Church. My grandfather was a preacher. We were in the Church everyday and night. And we were taught that God will provide, he will take care of you, so I couldn’t understand why an all-powerful God was letting these things happen to me.” -Julie Mansfield, Author of “Maybe God Was Busy.”
Famed Attorney Jacqueline Samuels-Brown presented her “Firm Yet Fair — Rules and Discretion” address at the conference reminding top law enforcement officials in Jamaica that often, especially in dealing with children:
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” -Attorney Jacqueline Samuels-Brown
Samuels-Brown appears regularly at the Appellate and trial levels Jamaican Courts but also throughout the entire region. Just a day after the conference ended, she had to do opening arguments at a trial.
Journalist Dominic Carter was also a victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and speaks about it all over the world. His life was profiled in an Oprah Winfrey Magazine article titled: Sexually Abused Men: Is your husband one of them.
Just days after the Jamaica Conference, Dominic Carter was back at it again tackling universal world-wide issues. In midtown, New York Dominic Carter was the emcee for the “Face to Face” gathering, which teaches people how to garden. A very important issues as they gain knowledge they need to grow enough food to eat, earn income, improve nutrition, and lead healthy lives. Face to Face works with 7 tribal chief districts in Malawi.