Probe launched over online child videos

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

ACTIVISTS and health workers have condemned the viral spread of three separate videos depicting minors in exploitative situations.

Social Services assistant director Cherely Kelly confirmed yesterday the ministry is investigating all three videos and have forwarded clips to the police.

Yesterday, Mrs Kelly called the matter a “sad situation”, but noted it was not new for the country. She urged anyone with information or concerns related to the safety and well-being of a child to report the matter anonymously.

“It has always been happening,” Mrs Kelly said, “since I’ve been in social work. Maybe not at this level or magnitude, it may be heightened as a result of social media. People are using social media as a way to get information out. 

“I would advise the public to contact us through our hotline at 422-2763 or 322-2763. You need to protect the persons involved, the child lives in this community, she goes to school, church, she has friends. Call the hotline.”

In the first video, a woman records an explosive exchange with a young girl called “Muffin”, who is crying and visibly agitated. 

The clip starts during a scuffle between the pair, and the girl can be heard saying the woman had choked her. 

In the clip, which runs for just over a minute, the woman repeatedly asks the girl to clean a bedroom and the girl refuses. The girl appears to be trying to leave the room, but is pushed back by the woman, whose face is never shown. The exchange continues until the girl screams and curses at the woman in frustration, to which the woman replied: “That’s what I want.”

In the visibly messy room, two other young children can also be seen. At the end of the clip, in what appears to be separate footage, the girl is seen hopping a fence and walking off into bushes as children call after her to return. The woman tells them to let her go.

The chaotic clip was hotly disputed on Facebook and has reignited debate over the use of corporal punishment with users coming to defence of both the caretaker and the child.

One Facebook user, who identified herself as a social worker, wrote: “I see quite a number of things that concern me as a social worker. This is a highly charged situation, in which it appears as if the person who is recording the situation is also provoking the situation. 

“. . .There is no doubt that the girl should not be back talking in that manner, but it is obvious that she is extremely frustrated, that she feels treated unfairly, that she is being mistreated, and that this situation is not being handled effectively.”

In the second short video, a high school student clad in uniform is shown pulling up her underwear behind an unfinished building as a man - who appears to be in his late 20s - stands next to her fully clothed. Another man’s voice can be heard from off camera stating the girl has been caught having sex. The girl continues to fix her clothes and attempts to shield her face, then walks away with the man while still being filmed. The man recording the scene begins to blackmail the girl to have sex with him, and threatens to post the video to social media if she does not comply. 

In the final video, a junior high schoolgirl is shown performing a sex act on a male student in what appears to be a busy classroom. Only the girl’s face and the sex act are shown in the frame as she hunches down at her desk.

Denise Major, of the Empowerment Group and RISE Bahamas, yesterday suggested the virulent spread of the videos on social media inflicted far greater damage on the girls, and society than the incidents depicted therein. She noted the treatment of “Muffin”, and resulting social ridicule, often led girls into dangerous and harmful situations like the ones depicted in the other two videos.

“We further the abuse of these girls in sharing these videos and that’s what kills me. It’s clearly visible who they are. We are comfortable in sharing these images, sharing videos of children, minors, to further continue the abuse. 

“We look at it see something is wrong and make a big joke of it. I saw so many memes after the Muffin video, she has already been publicly humiliated on Facebook, now this is on the Internet forever. 

“Then a couple years from now, we’ll wonder why people commit suicide,” Ms Major said.

She insisted she was not defending the child’s behaviour, but stressed beating did not amount to discipline.

“The Bible says do not provoke your children to wrath,” she said, “we always pick and choose which scripture to quote to suit our spiel.

“The adult is more at fault. We know better, these things have to be taught to children. 

“The child needs an intervention, she’s rude and disrespectful but how did she get there? The child needs balance, yes, she needs discipline, but she also needs to be loved.

“Where is Muffin in the next five years after you done call her a demon?”